With the rise of the web as a key information source and its increasing importance to MIT's communications strategy, Campus Wide Information Systems (CWIS) is changing its name and reporting relationship to better reflect its current role. The team will now be known as Web Communication Services (WCS), and Suzana Lisanti, director of web communications and team leader, will report jointly to Information Systems and Public Relations Services.
For more than six years, CWIS has managed the MIT home page and helped MIT's web publishers make strategic use of the web. The group is responsible for publishing the official MIT web site, and the integration of information across MIT web sites. The renamed Web Communication Services, which includes Deborah Levinson, Jag Patel and Joanne Costello, consults with MIT organizations on making strategic use of the web, assists with web design and information architecture, and promotes guidelines for accessibility and usability.
"The web is becoming an increasingly important tool for strategic communication at the Institute," said Professor James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems. "The Information Systems/WCS partnership with Public Relations Services will enable these organizations to work together more effectively to support MIT as it achieves its mission to advance knowledge and educate students who will better serve the nation and the world in the 21st century."
The official MIT web site first went live in 1993; now the MIT search engine indexes nearly 1 million URLs (web addresses) at MIT.
"As the web has grown to a full-fledged communications medium, publishers are paying more attention to how they present their departments, organizations and programs online, as well as in print," said Vice President Kathryn Willmore, who oversees Public Relations Services. "Conveying MIT's message effectively to the world now requires a clear understanding of both the technological and communications potential of the web as well as more traditional media. By making Web Communications Services a more explicit partner in public relations, and specifically by forging stronger working links with the Publishing Services Bureau, we expect to strengthen MIT's communications capabilities overall."
Consistent communication across media is enhanced through WCS's partnership with the Publishing Services Bureau (PSB), headed by Bruce Bernstein. The offices have worked together for more than three years helping Institute publishers integrate their print and online materials, ensuring that audiences receive the same message no matter how they access the information.
WCS and PSB help groups from every part of campus. Clients include the Admissions Office, the Alumni/ae Association, Resource Development, the IAP Office, the Sloan School of Management, the Committee on Campus Race Relations and many academic departments. The two offices provide consultation services, matching clients with graphic designers, writers, printers and programmers who develop professional publications under a contract or a time-and-materials basis. They also help people plan communications, whether single documents, web sites, or integrated publication programs.
MORE THAN JUST WEB SITES
In addition to their web publishing work, WCS works with others in Information Systems to enhance MIT's computing infrastructure. With Network Operations, WCS maintains the MIT search engine, online campus map and virtual tour. WCS and PSB are also working on the design and production of MIT's forthcoming online events calendar.
"Our next major project is to conduct a full re-evaluation of the MIT web site, with an eye towards redesigning the top-level pages," Ms. Lisanti said.
The project's twin goals are to make MIT information easier to find, as well as to promote the MIT identity by creating a bolder, more exciting user experience. Over the next few months, WCS will assess the site's design, navigation, content and capabilities by conducting interviews, surveys and usability testing with individuals and groups inside and outside MIT.
Web Communications Services is located in Rm N42-040 and Rm E28-100, where they share space with the Publishing Services Bureau and the Communications Office (part of Public Relations Services). MIT web publishers can reach WCS through its help desk at x3-0101 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2000.