January 11, 2005

WILL web site redesign 

It's about time to seriously begin thinking about starting the site redesign process at WILL. It won't be quick, because we'll take the time to do it right, meaning based on web standards and user-centered design. I'm simply raising the flag here to begin the adventure, and I really want your input. That said, one thing I feel strongly about is the importance of maintaining an identity for WILL on the web. Yes, the web is global, but WILL is a local service, but which I mean defined by a geographical service area. If we lose our roots, we lose the things that define us and make us special. We are your East Central Illinois NPR and PBS station. We aren't NPR, PBS, or the BBC, even though we airs lots of their programs. I raise this because lots of 'experts' in web design tell us that people usually don't know or care if they're on a local station's web site, or on the NPR or PBS site. Users navigate across local/national web site boundaries often without noticing any difference. In the past NPR and PBS have encouraged us to take advantage of this by presenting lots of links to their sites, with the hope that users will be impressed at the depth of their 'local' site. Why does this bother me? Two points for now: 1) I don't want to decieve anyone into thinking WILL created all this great content on the Frontline web site, for example. Also, I can't provide user support if it's broken. We create our own content and put it all on our own web site. I'll do everything I can to provide user support for anything we create. 2) Style and aesthetics are vital to the evolving craft of web media, and I want us to have our own. As Midwesterners our style might seem rather plain, but it's our style. Stubborn? That's us! People may browse from local to national sites all the time without noticing, but is that a good thing? I want our web site users to know where they are. If the WILL site sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb amid all the other homogenized local/national sites, at least people know who we are. That doesn't excuse us from bad design. We're simply determined to have our own. Over the next few months, I want to work with you on the next generation of our web site. Any suggestions, ideas, preferences, etc. will be welcome.

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