The Arts at Dartmouth website is an effort to provide a consolidated view of arts-related activities and opportunities at Dartmouth. The site is aimed at prospective students who are interested in incorporating the arts into their college experience. But the site also serves current students and the Upper Valley community who are interested in participating in the current arts activities at the College.
Collaboration is a key component of a cross-disciplinary project such as Arts at Dartmouth. Five academic departments, the Hood Museum, and the Hopkins Center for the Arts comprise the primary stakeholders, along with Admissions and the Office of the Provost. I was project leader, and in order to move the project forward, we formed a working group to do the work of the site, a management team to help with decision-making, and had regular sessions with the stakeholder group to touch base and get feedback.
Another important tool in the development process was the project charter. With many differing interests among the stakeholders, the project charter served as our touchstone throughout the site development process. In particular, revisiting our defined goals, target audience, and measures of success helped keep us focused and avoid scope creep:
Goals and Themes
- Demonstrate the value that Dartmouth places on the arts
- Demonstrate the distinctiveness of the arts at Dartmouth
- Demonstrate the influence and value of the arts on overall quality of life
- Prospective students (and their parents and families)—accepted students in particular
- Current students
- Dartmouth and Upper Valley community
Measures of Success
- Increase in matriculation of students who are highly talented in the arts
- Increase in the number of arts majors/minors
- Increase in the number of students enrolling in arts courses, especially those who enroll during their first year
- Increase in student participation in/attendance at arts-related activities
- Increase in overall attendance at arts-related activities
In the end, the biggest challenge to developing and maintaining the Arts site is content. Each of the stakeholder departments has its own website, and expecting them to engage in content development for an additional website was not realistic. We developed a minimal collection of static content—testimonials, photos, descriptive text, and videos—as part of the site development process. Then we embedded feeds from other sources—Flickr, YouTube, calendars and news—to provide an ongoing content source, giving a more dynamic and current feel to the site.
The architecture for this “portal to the arts” is fairly straightforward. Each department and center has its own page, with text and imagery designed to express its energy and focus. The overall visual design is colorful and vivid, based on a color palette derived from the site’s primary visual element—a segment of an oil painting created by a student in Studio Art. The layout is flexible, adapting gracefully to different window widths.
The Arts at Dartmouth website is an ongoing project. We continue to add to the site, refine our approach, and measure progress toward our success metrics.