The Northwestern Alumni Association's redesigned web site gives alumni a new way to make their voices heard.
Since the Northwestern Alumni Association launched its new web site in September, record numbers of Northwestern alumni and friends have been clicking onto www.alumni.northwestern.edu and finding new features to help them stay connected to each other and the University.
The first thing visitors notice is the site's colorful new look that includes faces and places familiar to alumni. They're also finding it easier to access practical information on NAA events, career resources and reunion schedules through the use of drop-down menus that let users point and click to the information they need without spending extra time searching individual web pages.
"The goal in redesigning the site is to connect our diverse alumni and student populations," says Scot Marcotte (McC90), co-chair of the NAA's communication committee. "This shows alumni the vibrancy of campus life and gives students and friends of the University a look at the active alumni community."
Students have their own space on the new site that gives them access to event information and senior-year survival resources. Alumni can read about the musings of first-year students through the Freshman Diary, a collection of online journal entries chronicling the Class of 2008's experiences. The diaries will be archived so students can review their reflections in later years.
The site's new Alumni Forums discussion boards are opening up additional connections between alumni and students by allowing them to post questions and comments on a variety of practical and amusing topics. One alumni posting offered advice for those considering careers in advertising and media:
"Resiliency is everything.
"Big agency, small agency, supervised or independent — not all of your ideas will be embraced by everyone right away. Some of them will never be embraced by anyone, ever. Just keep putting good ideas out there, and choose your battles carefully. Stand by what you believe in, but respect that not everyone is there with you yet — in that place of intellectual and creative height."
The online buzz is also growing around the site's Alumni Gallery, a scrapbook-type feature that allows alumni to post their own updates and photos of their weddings, new babies and other special events. (These submissions are separate from class notes listings in Northwestern magazine.) The Alumni Bookshelf, created in connection with Amazon.com, gives alumni and faculty the opportunity to submit information about books and CDs they've produced so visitors can browse the listings and link to each item's Amazon.com page.
From the home page, NAA travelers can connect to a travel database to locate upcoming trips based on their individual schedule and destination preferences, and visitors can also view photos from previous alumni tours.
The new design also makes it easier for alumni reunion leaders to stay connected with their classmates throughout the year and for alumni club leaders to promote upcoming events.
For young alumni focused on career planning, the site offers easily accessible networking and job-hunting links from the home page, and connections to the Daily Northwestern will help keep them current with on-campus issues.
Because of the redesign, traffic to the new NAA web site has grown 79 percent over the same period last year. In its first month of operation the site generated 89,907 user sessions, compared with 50,355 in 2003. The site attracted more visitors in one day — 14,601 — than on any other day in the NAA's measured history. As site activity continues to grow, NAA leaders can learn more about what appeals to alumni, and based on the site's traffic figures can update programs and services according to those preferences.
With input from the NAA professional staff, members of the association's communication committee and young alumni leaders, NAA director of marketing and communications Jim Kaczkowski and web master Franklin Habit worked with Palantir.net, an Evanston-based new media developer co-founded by George De Met (WCAS98) and Tiffany Farriss (WCAS00), to update the site.
Online interactivity is the key to making the experience relevant to alumni, says Peter Johnson (WCAS71, GJ72), co-chair of the NAA's communication committee. "Our alumni have become more sophisticated in their use of the Internet, so changing our site from its previously static nature to its current dynamic state is critical. It will keep their online experiences fresh and keep them coming back."
Join in the conversation. Post your impressions of the new NAA web site on the Alumni Forums pages. Visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu.