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MIT launches new homepage and daily email

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Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson today shared the following.

To the members of the MIT community and friends of MIT:

Today, MIT launches a redesigned homepage and a new daily email newsletter. What follows are a few notes on what we’ve done, and why.

The homepage we replace has given good service to the Institute. Since its launch in 2009, it has maintained a straightforward and uncommon aesthetic: a single “Spotlight” image surrounded by links to sites from around MIT. (And that basic approach had been established years before.) The page has been well-liked and well-used.

But research of our audiences showed us that it was time to make some changes. First, we wanted to transform the Search function. We sought not just to make it perform better (it’s both highly used and a frequent source of frustration, we learned), but also to make it say something about MIT: that we prize utility, practicality, serendipity, exploration, and fun. What you see here is just a beginning; we will be eager over time to find new ways to make Search satisfy and delight our visitors.

If the left side of the new homepage is devoted to utility and self-guided journeys, the right side offers a daily glimpse of the culture and output of MIT. Here we have preserved the daily Spotlight — which we now summarize in brief, bold type that itself (through hyperlinks) serves as a jumping-off point to other destinations at MIT.

We also wanted to clean up the navigation structure: The old homepage exposed both too much and too little, our research showed. After determining how our audiences classify different kinds of information about MIT,  we created a navigation system of secondary landing pages linked to from the top of the homepage — places designed to orient visitors and get them where they want to go.

In all of this, we required a site that would work well on mobile devices, meet the highest standards of accessibility, and be “light” enough to function usefully in a world of highly variable levels of bandwidth and processing power.

The homepage you see today, then, aims to honor but also improve upon MIT’s long-distinctive approach to a homepage.

The new MIT Daily email complements that effort. Building on the weekly MIT News email that was begun in 2009 — and to which tens of thousands of people beyond the MIT community now subscribe — the new Daily (plus a redesigned Weekly) aims to give the MIT community and our friends outside a regular dose of the Institute’s news and culture: You’ll find a diverse menu of content that changes every day. We’ll do our best to keep these emails varied and surprising, and we’ll feature their content on the homepage under the “Recommended today” list of links.

Over the course of this journey, the creative input we received from the MIT community was an embarrassment of riches. Communications colleagues from across MIT put their mark on the work. The Admissions Office partnered with us from the beginning, lending us their high degree of creativity and their deep understanding of current and prospective students. MIT’s senior leadership improved our thinking with energy and encouragement — and in user testing, the Institute’s brilliant students and alumni helped us see things in new ways. Finally, hats off to the creative agency Upstatement, which helped us to be as bold as we were careful. Thank you, all!

I hope you’ll enjoy these new products. I welcome your feedback on the homepage and on the Daily.

Yours truly,

Nate Nickerson
Vice President for Communications, MIT

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