Written by Natan Edelsburg
Edited by Sara Saldi
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jim Ford, talented actor and Chief Web Designer for NYU Steinhardt. Jim has played an essential role in helping the Comm Club begin to re-brand themselves this semester by helping us design a new website. He's also been helping out Steinhardt's Undergraduate Student Government by working with their new social media guru, freshman Jeremiah Malina. More importantly though, Jim was behind Steinhardt's phenomenal new web design, which if you haven't noticed, rolled out this semester. Here's a condensed and edited version of my interview.
How did you start your career as a web developer?
I majored in acting in college. I got my first job as an "HTML Monkey" making travel sites for destinations in the Caribbean.
When did you start working on Steinhardt's Website?
In 2000 the web team consisted of one person. We spent two and a half years building a site for the school. I then left Steinhardt for a bit and went to work for a company called Fractured Atlas, a non-profit that helped provide affordable healthcare for emerging artists, where I served as Director of Member Services. I then ended up coming back to NYU when a new position opened up.
When was the last time the site was redesigned?
We redesigned the site in 2007 when Steinhardt re-branded itself, changing its name to the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The problem with the original website was that the site was based more on the design and less on the userability. Using a trackpad with the site was horrible. However, we did introduce a great CMS (Content Management System), which allows departments and student organizations to easily create a page with their content.
What are some of the cool features of the new redesign?
When designing the site we used the mega drop-downs with a limitless options-style designed by expert usability consultant Jakob Nielsen. It lets users click where they want to go as quickly as possible. We also have a great video portal with interviews and lectures. Lastly, we launched our News Portal that features new blogs and happenings around Steinhardt.
Many students prefer to use Gmail as supposed to NYU's Messenger and other intranet features. Do you have any insights why NYU hasn't gone Google?
I'm not positive but it probably has to do with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) that protects academic records. NYU may not want to give Google access to student's private communication with professors and other students. Another concern may be that they don’t want to sell their student’s attention to Google. It’s true that Google is pretty good about ads with their academic suites, but it could still be a potential issue.