Professor in Training is working on a faculty website design and asks the following:
I'm in the process of designing my own page and also a separate set of pages for my lab. I know the type of stuff I want in both of these but I was looking for feedback from both current and prospective students and postdocs as well as other faculty as to what you look for if/when you go searching for faculty/lab pages.
Take a visit over there and share your opinion on what makes a good website. Inquiring minds may also be interested in some work done on this issue a few years ago by Cynthia Burack (and me):
Evaluating STEM Department Websites for Diversity
and by Burack, Ruth Dyer, myself, and Beth Montelone:
Designing Welcoming and Inclusive STEM Department Websites
You can also look up each of those papers in the WEPAN archives (click on the 2006 archives and scroll down the table of contents).
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Do web-sites - in isolation - work for recruitment or outreach? Is that success replicable?
Another factor that some universities (including mine) take very seriously: the official web pages need to be designed to maximize their accessibility for persons with disabilities.
I don't know if they work in isolation for recruitment or outreach. But they can, absolutely, work in isolation to turn OFF members of underrepresented groups who are considering your department or program. What you want your website to do is at least be neutral, and at best we welcoming and inclusive.
And Dr. Free-Ride is right - being accessible for those with disabilities is an important consideration as well. If you are crafting a faculty web page, this is something your university ought to be helping you with. That is, there should be university-wide standards regarding this.
I've yet to read the articles, but websites in isolation definite make a difference. Applying to grad school, I wanted to find out who was doing research at various places. If I couldn't find anything of interest, I usually assumed that nothing was happening there in my area. Sometimes professors would correct me at mention names of people. That's connections. That is a benefit that someone at a top undergrad school who is in the network has.
Allowing someone out of the network to access information that used to be by word-of-mouth can be play a real role at leveling the field.