At Columbia, every new initiative gets a committee, a report, and a focus group. That includes the new columbia.edu.
Yes, after eight years of stagnancy, columbia.edu finally got a much-needed update. In an email blast to the Columbia community, David Stone, Columbia’s executive vice president for communications, announced the unveiling to an unsuspecting public on January 9.
Stone wrote that the redesign reflected “extensive input from every segment of the University community,” taking the form of “online surveys, in-person focus groups, design-thinking workshops on campus, user testing, and site analytics gathered over nearly a year of research.”
So finally, on January 11, after a year of research, Columbia revealed its unique new website, suited to its unique institutional needs. By which I mean to say: It looks like a carbon copy of literally every other university website. Right down to the navigation bar design, the tasteful serif/sans serif font pairings, and the tile news articles.
Though thoroughly impractical—there wasn’t even an easy way to get to the websites of individual schools, like Columbia College—the old columbia.edu was at least quirky and endearing. It was Lerner, not NoCo: not exactly functional, but hey, it had character. The slight gradient from “kind of navy” blue to “definitely navy” blue on the navigation bar would catch your eye, though maybe not in a good way. A weird gray box would helpfully outline the search bar whenever you clicked it. The pixelated logos for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook on the bottom right corner were at least three years out of date.
Between the new columbia.edu and the recent unveiling of the sleek Google Calendar in our LionMails, I wonder if ugly, outdated layouts have gone the way of the dodo.
But to ease my worries, there is one remaining relic. Atop the left corner of our Gmail accounts, the pixelated LionMail logo sits, a defiant outlier in a sea of technical innovation (or at least technical competency). Why didn’t they just make the background an alpha channel? Why is the @ sign turquoise? The world may never know. These questions will keep us going through dark times.
One of these days, the LionMail logo may change, our last artifact disappearing into a sea of responsive, high-resolution uniformity. But not for a while: Word on the street is it’ll take seven focus groups and a century.