A Sneak Peek at Johns Hopkins’ New Website

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If you go to jhu.edu right now, you may find yourself faced with information overload. The current homepage includes more than 240 links–which means lots of text–and a slightly stodgy blue and black color scheme. After the successful overhaul of the university’s logo last year, Hopkins decided that the next big project worth a redesign was this website. It was time, university administrators and communications staff decided, to give the school a brand new front door.

The new site won’t go live until the school year starts (so, in late August), but to whet your appetite, Hopkins has released a YouTube preview of the new look. Here are a few highlights:

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In keeping with current design trends, the new homepage is very image-centric. You can’t tell from this screen shot, but that photo of the pink flamingos is actually a short video clip. In its current, beta formulation, the site cycles through videos including this one, a shot of students working in the Brody Learning Commons, and an exuberant Peabody string concert. The videos are a way to show familiar sites to people who know Hopkins well, and to form a quick, engaging first impression for those who don’t.

 

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The search functions and major links are over on the right side, so as to provide easy access to useful information without cluttering up the welcome page with lots of text.

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For years now, Johns Hopkins has been trying to rid prospective undergrads of the idea that it’s a boring research university that only cares about its grad students and fancy faculty research projects. If you scroll down on the homepage, the first thing you’ll come to is a section on Hopkins’ people, including brief profiles and photos.

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The overall feel seems to be something like: Look, we’re a fun place! We don’t just spend all our time in the library! Promise!

 

These next three images show what you’ll get when you scroll down even farther — maps of the Hopkins Homewood campus, then one of the greater Baltimore area showing all the different Hopkins schools and facilities, and finally a map of the whole world, with pins indicating the university’s programs in Italy and China, as well as study abroad opportunities and overseas research projects.Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 7.41.07 AMScreen shot 2014-07-31 at 7.41.31 AMScreen shot 2014-07-31 at 7.41.47 AM

Below that is a section on various academic programs. In a smart move, the school has integrated both extracurriculars and traditional academics — for example, if you click on “Robotics,” you’ll find links to both the official robotics department, the robotics club, and also the computer science and mechanical engineering programs, as well as any news or events stories about robotics.

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And then finally waaaay down at the bottom of the page is a section celebrating Johns Hopkins’ long legacy as a top research university, complete with a timeline and lots of black-and-white pictures of important dead white men.

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It’s difficult to tell how a website will actually function from screen shots and YouTube videos, of course, but from what I can see so far, the new Hopkins site will be both dynamic and easy to navigate–not to mention easy on the eyes. (If you have thoughts about the site, its design, or anything else, voice your opinion in this quick survey to improve the site before it goes live.) What’s most interesting of all, though, is how clearly the site’s bright colors, dynamic design, swooping lines, and friendly, informal graphic design work hard to create an impression of a school that’s, as the video notes, “a warm, welcoming place where exciting things are happening.” Now they just have to find a way to get the students to stop camping out in the library during finals week…



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