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Front door or cluttered closet?
October 13, 1998

Mark J. Roy

What's on your website? Did you do the same as nearly everyone else when the Web burst into our lives, and post anything and everything you could? - department brochures and handbooks, faculty vitas, course schedules, admissions and tuition information, events calendars. All of these things and more are on many of UConn's websites.

Most websites have evolved in one of two ways:

  • Some people have redesigned and reorganized their material to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for - and have jettisoned outdated and/or useless material, and material that can be found elsewhere within the UConnWeb.

  • Others have made only cosmetic changes, heaping additional information into the site without cleaning out or updating old and outdated material.

Instead of being a front door to your department or program, your website may be a cluttered closet, like that of Fibber McGee (look it up on the Web - a good place to start is at the Old Time Radio site:

Many webmasters, myself included, started by trying to make pages on the Web look as close as possible to the printed documents from which we were drawing information. For a long time now (two years is a long time in Web years), that kind of material has been referred to as brochureware, or more derogatorily, shovelware (a colorful colloquial metaphor). Websites became dumping grounds for every document or publication that someone, somewhere, said "should be on the Web!"

But that's not how you should be tending your website. Users have become highly sophisticated in their searches for information - and highly impatient. If your site takes them several clicks into an information abyss, don't expect them back anytime soon.

Here are some tips for streamlining your website, and keeping it up to date:

  1. Make your homepage as spare as possible, with easy to follow links and instructions. You don't need much text. Keep the graphics to a minium as well.

  2. Pare down the number of links on your homepage. Originally the UConnWeb (formerly known as UCINFO) had nearly 40 links on its homepage. Those were revised down to 14 links during a redesign in 1996, and earlier this year down to six (plus five links to specialized menu pages for segmented audiences). Combine information into easily understood categories.

  3. On second-level pages (those immediately off the homepage), use a navigation bar or buttons so that users can move to other areas of your site without having to go back to the homepage to move around.

  4. Get rid of information that can be found on other University websites. You shouldn't be duplicating key information that already exists at the admissions, registrar's, financial aid, or course catalog sites. Create links to these sites, don't duplicate their information.

  5. If you have a calendar of departmental events on your site, keep it up to date. This is probably the most important change you can make to your site. Many users get upset, some get indignant, if they find a site that has a calendar from a previous month - or year - when they expect to find information about future events. There is a master events calendar on line, maintained by the Student Union staff, to which you can submit all of your events. It is searchable by keyword and by date. You can find all of the events scheduled for a given day or days, from today into next year - or use the interactive calendar to click on a date. You can save yourself a lot of time by submitting your events directly to the Master Calendar and linking to it, rather than updating them on your website.

To submit events to the University's Master Calendar, send e-mail to Janice Gudinkas (, including date, time, location, admission fee (if any), and contact information (name, phone, e-mail).