Linfielders today are quite familiar with the photo slideshow on Linfield’s home Web page, but back when people were still asking, “The World Wide What?” the Web site contained only a single image. Since then, the world has come to rely on the Internet for information, entertainment and communication. And Linfield’s Web site has evolved accordingly.
Kelley Hungerford – Managing editor.
“When I got here in 1999, there was already a Web site, and it was a mess,” Webmaster Jonathan Pierce said.
The Web was in the public eye for barely five years when Pierce was hired to enhance and maintain Linfield’s site, but both the Internet and the college’s Web presence have come a long way since that point.
In 1997, Linfield’s Web site comprised one photo and a bunch of text. Two years later, it became graphics-based, Pierce said. Even in 2000, the admission’s page contained almost all graphics with one block of text. Web designs such as that, Pierce said, make modifying Web sites difficult.
But back then, when dial-up and AOL ruled the Web, people were still trying to figure out what to make of the “strange phenomenon” that was the Internet.
“It was a realm of geeks and hardcore people,” Pierce said. “It gradually focused into everyone’s consciousness that this was where we were going.”
So to rev up the Wildcat Web site, Linfield hired Pierce.
Back then, however, the Web was balkanized, with different departments and groups maintaining their own Web pages, Pierce said. Even ASLC had its own Web site and students to manage it.
But problems soon arose. In 1999, no one realized the need to beware of security breaches, Pierce said. Hackers were rare in the infant stage of the Internet, but before long, ASLC’s Web sites were being hacked constantly.
Pierce said one of his jobs was to generate a secure, central site with content that met the desires of the people it represented.
“I think there was an understanding that Web services really have to be centralized, and we couldn’t really leave ASLC with their own server,” he said.
About a year and a half ago, the college hired Web Programmer Sean Ezell to help Pierce maintain the Web site. Ezell had already been working with the college as a programmer analyst to help build parts of Colleague and WebAdvisor.
“Jonathan, working mostly alone, did not have a lot of time to focus on security, and he is not a programmer by trade,” Ezell said. “Since I have started in this position, Jonathan’s stress level has probably lowered.”
Much of Ezell’s job involves using code languages, such as HTML and PHP coding, to work “behind-the-scenes” on Linfield’s Web site. Cleaning up and consolidating old, duplicated code makes managing security and upgrades easier, he said.
Overall, this allows for a more reliable Web site.
“A more stable and secure Web site means that students and staff have a better time using the site, and hackers cannot break in to run rogue sites advertising black market medicines,” Ezell said.
Creating a single, secure online hub for all of Linfield’s services was a leap forward in terms of ease of use and security.
But there is another issue: How should Linfield present itself online?
A few years ago, Linfield was trying to market itself as “hip, cool and attractive” to students, Pierce said. The Web site became a canvas of “colors a 17-year-old would like,” he said.
“We’re a college, and it’s not our job to be cool,” Pierce said. “It’s our job to teach.”
Implementing branding decisions is still a challenge for the college, he said. In fact, Linfield held a forum Feb. 23 about Linfield’s brand identity. Whatever branding decisions Linfield makes will affect the future look of its Web site.
Senior Aaron Cody, the Review’s online editor, whose work-study job involves assisting Pierce and Ezell, is helping Linfield define its visual Web appearance.
This past summer, Cody helped build the athletic Web site, including the front-page flash slideshow, and is working to upgrade the Linfield’s homepage slideshow. He’s also been helping Pierce move the Web site to a Content Management System.
“This fall, I helped Jonathan move some departments over to a new CMS, a system which allows people to update their department pages as easy as a Facebook page or blog post,” Cody said. “With the CMS, the school’s departments have been better able to keep track of their pages, and I think because of that, I’ve heard less about broken links.”
Although this may seem like a lot of new changes, Pierce said the Web is always transforming.
“We’re building the bridge while we’re driving over it,” he said.
For instance, when Pierce got here, students were using desktops. Today, they’re using laptops and notebooks. And phones are getting smarter, which Pierce says will be the next hurdle for Linfield’s Web site.
But whether people will be online using computers or phones is impossible to tell, Pierce said.
“Where we’ll be in 10 years, we just don’t know,” he said. “The best thing I can say is that we do it as effectively as the media dictates.”
There’s no doubt that Linfield’s Web site has changed considerably in the past decade. But don’t expect it to stay the way it is for long. As Pierce said, the Web is ephemeral and constantly rebuilding.
“We’re not going to invent the new communication medium, and we don’t want to be the cutting edge of these things,” he said. “We like to be on the rear-garde of the avant-garde.”