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ND debuts new design for Web site

John Tierney | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

After more than eight years of simple graphics and text against a white background, visitors to Notre Dame’s Web site were greeted Tuesday morning with a fresh new layout.

The old Web site – which was launched in the late 1990s – received only slight modifications over the years, Notre Dame WebGroup director Matt Klawitter said.

The Web site was “due for a change,” University chief technology officer Dewitt Latimer said.

The University debuted the anticipated revamped homepage at midnight, designed to appeal to three different groups of potential users – those who are being exposed to the University for the first time, those who are looking for simple information and those who use the site on a regular basis, such as faculty, staff, and students, Klawitter said.

For the three target groups, he said he hopes the new nd.edu will reflect the University’s multifaceted character better than its predecessor.

One of the Web site’s most prominent features is the interactive Flash carousel, which presents a variety of video clips that showcase a “taste of life” at Notre Dame, Klawitter said.

The carousel requires the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player, an upgrade most users will have to download to view the page, he said.

But Web designer John Nunemaker said the WebGroup felt the upgrade constraint is reasonable because the widely used Flash player is already a prerequisite for common Web sites, including YouTube.

Klawitter’s group also significantly upgraded the search feature on nd.edu through a partnership with Google, which will help both unfamiliar and frequent site visitors “find specific information quickly,” Klawitter said.

He said he expects the improved search engine to be one of the added features that will directly impact prospective and current students by simplifying their online experience.

“We wanted to give a straight-forward, positive impression of the University and provide a solid user experience,” Klawitter said.

Feedback to Klawitter’s office has been generally positive so far, he said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of kudos and well-wishes. People are excited that we’ve provided fresh content to all users,” he said.

Sophomore Nick LaSpina said he liked the Web site’s improvements.

“It seems well designed for both aesthetic and practical purposes,” he said.

Klawitter’s next task will be to improve the calendar, mapping and virtual tour features to update the “starting point” for the users’ online Notre Dame experience.

“We want to be as excellent in our Web site as we are in academics and athletics,” he said.

The Web site was designed exclusively by Klawitter’s WebGroup, which is a service of the Office of News and Information, not of the Office of Information Technology.

OIT divested itself from the WebGroup approximately three years ago because Klawitter’s office, designed to handle the content and presentation of nd.edu, does not fall under OIT’s role of overseeing the campus’ computer systems and networks.

OIT “worries about infrastructure. [WebGroup] worries about message,” Latimer said.