Once in a while we face the question: should I publish my content as a downloadable PDF or as a web page?
The question is not new (I peg it to the mid-90s when both the PDF and Netscape's browser were born). Twenty plus years later we're still wondering. So which is better? It depends.
PDFs are great for printing documents with complex layouts and precise formatting. That's it.
The new princeton.edu uses big, beautiful images to tell our story, a substantial change from the walls of text we presented on the old site. Every news article can have a cover image that helps tell a story. We reuse this image in other places (for example, as a teaser in article lists), and we wondered how we can leverage this image and other important content in social media to make our posts look better and more consistent.
The top question we've received in feedback is like this one:
I used to be able to find the webmail link at the top of the University main page, now I can't find it.
In the old site webmail was two clicks away. In the new site webmail is two clicks away. We didn't make webmail harder to get to, we made the landing page around it much better.
Here's how to find it: On the top of every page, point your mouse at "Links for ..." and click on either "Students" or "Faculty & Staff." A link to webmail is under the headline.
We all want to eat cake, but we need our broccoli. (For the record, I like broccoli).
We received comments saying the redesigned site lost its encyclopedic feel. Here's one concern:
"[The redesign is a] dumbing down of previous site ... [and] contains much less info, few (if any) details, [and] oversized pictures."
Before I get to what this has to do with cake and broccoli, let's look at what we did and didn't do.
The first reaction visitors have to the new princeton.edu is how different it looks. Pages on the new site are filled with lots of big, bold images and the pages themselves are deep and airy. The old site is very much the opposite of that: content is a densely packed mix of text and links. Here's a comment we received that sums up changes to the home page:
"The new version provides far fewer links and displays merely one news story picture that takes up almost the whole screen! One has to scroll way down to reach everything else."
2,397 and counting.
(In a previous blog post I had counted 650, leaving out a couple of groups I account for here.)
Why so many? One of our goals for the new princeton.edu was a site that works for the people who use it. In practice that meant a collaborative and transparent process that's open to ideas.
We’ve received a lot of great feedback on the public beta from the Princeton community. (It’s all been helpful, so keep it coming.)
One comment we’re hearing has to do with A-Z. Here’s a comment that exemplifies what we’re hearing:
“Where is the A-Z index? Have I missed it? It is so easy to use that instead of scrolling through all the possible things to click on to find what one is looking for.”
Photo credit: Vikas Bhardwaj on Wikimedia Commons
The domain princeton.edu is 30 years old today. From the Whois record:
We've cut back the number of pages on the new core site to about 65 from 200. The pic above is our progress board.