1 University of Patras (GREECE)
2 University of Patras & CTI Diophantus (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 2612-2621
ISBN: 978-84-09-27666-0
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2021.0557
Conference name: 15th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-9 March, 2021
Location: Online Conference
The design and development of websites for universities or their departments have always attracted attention of the academic community and web development industry. This observation stems, rather naturally, from two main facts: a departmental website:
(a) forms a shared space for intradepartmental communication and collaboration and
(b) acts as a bridge joining a university department with the broader society, in terms of educational, research and development aspects.

Traditionally, it has been the case that the departmental website is a crucial channel through which information about the area of expertise, objectives, activities and presence of the department flows towards the interested public, general or specialized. Prospective students as well as prospective academic, business or social partners, especially when geographically distributed, first explore the departmental website before making a decision to pursue further collaboration or engagement to joint activities. The recent pandemic circumstances and the necessity for practicing physical distancing - at a local and global level - leverage even more the role of a departmental website. An effective website can strongly support the growth of a department as it seems to be the essential interface so that activities and potential of the department reach the interested audience.

But what makes a departmental website effective and leightweight in practice? Do long, rich menus and fancy web elements suffice for servicing the departmental objectives as well as promoting and disseminating its activities to the targeted audience? Does embedding the latest technology and web design trends always make a good approach for a successful departmental website? What could be a good balance to adopt for fruitfully blending traditional and modern techniques, components and design trends? Exploiting our rather long experience in higher education and in the relative web design and development professional community, we suggest two basic principles which should be intertwined to make a departmental website effective and lightweight: clarity in content organization and boldness in its design. Clarity implies neat and rational but not boring content organization. Design boldness refers to a design and implementation approach which certainly exploits state-of-the-art web technologies but simultaneously shields a departmental website against the rapid changes in the corresponding market of web platforms, components and standards.

To demonstrate our suggestions regarding the design and development of a effective and lightweight departmental website, we present and analyze a website we recently designed and developed for a computer science and engineering university department. Based on our experience, we describe practices we adopted and provide useful technical recommendations for exploiting boldness in the design and organizational beauty in the context of our evolving virtual academic environment.
Website design and development, university department, recommendations and guidelines, virtual academic environment.