Varied and colourful as they come, website clients fall into two camps: those raring to go, and those who need encouragement. Often, at project’s start, I’m inundated with files; text for this, pictures for that, names, logos, branding and radical ideas to reinvent Facebook. Other times, it’s as crucial coming up with material as it is appropriating what you’re given.
For Julie Wintrup, whose academic website brings together her work with Health Sciences, I returned to my university days to think from the learner’s perspective.
The aim of this website was to provide Julie with an all-in-one resource, both for herself and her students. Though she already has a page with Southampton, Julie wanted something more personal; a go-to, friendly space independent of the university where she could combine work and pleasure, blogging and research. Having studied not long ago, I empathised. Lecturers are more than a voice for their subject; they are a busy, multi-talented force, whose commitments go way beyond their establishment and pursue all sorts of paths. Charity, academia, union matters – a dedicated lecturer is somebody to follow, a mentor for impressionable young students needing to branch out of their study books.
The brief was then twofold. First, to collate Julie’s work under one banner, making it easy for students to access resources and get a sense of their lecturer’s wider work. Second, to provide Julie with an editable, ongoing platform through which she could get better acquainted with the internet. This quickly became the most fruitful part of the project: teaching the teacher.
Like I said, some clients need more support than others. It’s easy as a twenty-something to take this technology for granted. My generation grew up in a world of editing, software and endlessly signing up for online profiles. For others, the whole thing is overwhelming. It’s no wonder many stay away from websites when the process is obscured by jargon. WordPress, SEO, CMS, hosting, domains – these are just the basic terms you need to tackle when going through the proper channels.
So, after many Skypes, emails, trains to Newbury and cups of tea, we drummed up juliewintrup.co.uk. Its success is not just stylistic – gauging between friendly and professional – but in encouraging Julie to be independent online. She logs in, blogs, edits content and syncs it all up with Twitter (in which she is far more prolific than me). The result is that a website – that daunting, technological behemoth we so often dread – is becoming part and parcel of Julie’s routine. It will evolve over time, as will the client’s comfort in using it. As I finished that last sentence, I went to check Julie’s blog for a point of reference. Lo and behold, she’s written a post this very day. Serendipity, if ever I did see it.