Q & A with Bates College – 2012 Best Overall Website

Posted August 3rd, 2012 by Stewart Foss


Bates College was the winner of the Best Overall Website (both People’s Choice and Judged) and the People’s Choice winner for Best Homepage in this year’s eduStyle Awards. We connected with Ethan Wright-Magoon, the Digital Creative Director at Bates, to ask him and his team a few questions about how the site came about.

What is your role at your school?

I am the Digital Creative Director. I am the leader of the WebTeam here in the Bates Communication Office. The WebTeam is Ethan Wright-Magoon, Chris Bournakis and Nicholas O’Brien. Of course, we couldn’t have done any of this work without all of the support and inspiration from our colleagues in the Bates Communications Office, and Information & Library Services!

Can you give us a little background on the site and how it came together?

The site was part of a complete redesign of our online presence and also our offline/printed materials.

The new Bates.edu is a complete redesign from top to bottom. We basically razed the online campus. Then, we redesigned and rebuilt every site.

Was it completed internally or did you involve an outside company? Either way, tell us about the team that worked on it.

We had some outside help with the initial IA. Once IA was complete, the WebTeam of Communications, and the Systems Development & Integration Team of Information and Library Services worked in tandem.

Is the project using a CMS? OR what technologies are involved in it.

100% WordPress – WOOT!

Did you have any sources of inspiration for the project?

We try to stay as open to inspiration as possible. When every higher education institution is keenly aware of its peers’ work, there’s a risk of solving familiar problems with familiar solutions. So we stay mindful not just of our peers, but of other industries and fields. One day we’ll be inspired by a bicycle manufacturer, the next by a random developer who found us on Twitter.

What were some of the biggest challenges of the project?

The single biggest challenge was determining whether or not the new site should go live. To successfully overcome this challenge involved thoroughly explaining to all stakeholders just what a website is. i.e. A website is never done, and therefore never perfect in any given moment. Rather, a website is a moving solution, shooting towards a moving target. The idea of a website isn’t to actually hit the target, but to get a close as possible. Once everyone saw that, we got the green light.

Any lessons learned that you could share?

WordPress Custom Post Types (CPTs) are your best friend! Also - Follow the lead of your institution’s students. Students are encouraged to experiment and find happiness — to apply themselves without regard for precedent, and to do what they love. We couldn’t agree more!

How has the community reacted?

Open arms. Pitchforks. Cheers. Happiness. Yes, in that order.

What was your/your team’s reaction when you learned that you were nominated for an eduStyle Award?

Honored. Freaked Out. Stoked. Inspired. Joy. Vindication. Yes, in that order. We made a typical Bates move with our website by taking a calculated risk based on our core beliefs. Watching that risk unfold has been trying at times, so it’s nice to have eduStyle affirm our hard work and beliefs.

Do you have any favorite sites from the other nominees (either in your category or outside)?

Most higher education websites look like higher education websites — we like the sites that aren’t afraid to adopt current web themes and motifs. After all, our audiences have more experience on the web in general than higher education’s portion of the web. Our current favorites (in no particular order):

- Colorado State University English Department 

- EIU Admissions

- Regent College

- Texas Tech University

Congrats on the awards, they were well deserved.

The team from Bates celebrating the launch of the new Bates.edu with some suds at a local hangout in Lewiston.

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