By Melissa Mitchell The UI's home page on the World Wide Web has received a facelift. If all goes according to plans, the revamped UI site will make its debut Oct. 6 at http://www.uiuc.edu. Although the UI has maintained a respectable presence on the Web for about two years - thanks in large part to personnel in the Computing and Communications Services Office - a number of factors pointed to the need to redesign and reorganize the contents of the main page and formulate a set of guidelines that would help lend consistency to college and departmental links, according to Carol Menaker, director of communications in the UI's Office of Public Affairs. "This sort of activity is happening all around the country on university campuses," Menaker said. "When the Web first became active, those who were putting material up were computing people, not necessarily information people. In the beginning, I think the information that was there was organized primarily for an internal audience - for faculty, staff and students. "And that was fine until public affairs folks began to realize how many people were looking at that information," she said. "We were not addressing the needs of our external audiences as well as we should be." Another factor in the decision to redesign the home page, Menaker said, was the need "to try to establish some kind of visual continuity." "We wanted to acknowledge the importance of serving our external audiences and wanted to have some kind of visual - and editorial - continuity as well." The changes made to the main page resulted from the efforts of an ad hoc committee. In addition to Menaker, its members included Maeve Reilly and Deb Bolgla, Office of Publications; Ducky Sherwood and Ed Krol, CCSO; Ann Bishop, library and information science; Lex Lane, National Center for Supercomputing Applications; and Terry Tedrow, Administrative Information Systems and Services. Although the redesigned home page sports a new look and a reorganized content list, "the goal is to have everything up there that was up there before," Menaker said. "You may get to it in a different way; it may not be in the same place it was before; and there may be some initial frustration because of that, but I hope it will be easier - in the long run - to find what you're looking for." In addition to redesigning the UI's main port of entry for information seekers, the committee drafted a set of guidelines for departments and colleges with links to the university's home page. Menaker said units with official home pages housed on the CCSO www.uiuc.edu server - as well as those establishing their own server sites - are asked to incorporate the guidelines, which she said are "simple and straightforward." Among the recommendations, which are accessible through the new UI home page, "the most important thing to me is that the colleges and departments identify themselves as being with the UI," Menaker said. Standardized GIF files and home-page templates are available for that purpose, as well as for linking departments to colleges and colleges to the university's main page. "We understand that this may take time, but if units have someone doing their Web pages already, these documents are updated constantly anyway," Menaker said. In establishing guidelines, she added, "we wanted to make sure we didn't compromise anyone's needs. We didn't want to make people angry or frustrated or feel like they don't have control over their pages. It's impossible to try to centralize this function. We just ask that colleges identify themselves as part of the UI, and that departments identify themselves as part of the colleges - something that should be an advantage for all concerned." Menaker said the identification issue is especially important because of the nature of the Web, which allows people to go off exploring in every direction. Since people may arrive at a UI college or departmental site through a link other than the front door, they may not realize where they are if that information does not appear at the top of the page. "Although the World Wide Web is not yet a major way we communicate with our constituencies, it is an increasingly important way that we communicate with them," Menaker noted. "A lot more people are looking, and a lot more people are asking for information as a result of seeing the UI on the Web. "That means we'd better be prepared to answer questions posed by people as a result of looking at a Web page, or be prepared to put something up there. If departments find they are being asked the same question over and over, they might want to put a 'frequently asked questions' - or FAQ - file up there. Or they might send e-mail responses or set up an automatic mail response. The important thing is to be responsive." In the same vein, she said, "colleges and departments have to be able to keep their pages up to date. Maintenance is critical." It's also important to keep up appearances. Menaker advises those putting information on UI Web sites to be cognizant of grammar, spelling and writing styles. "If that's something that a department's Web-page developer isn't good at, have someone else take a look," she said. That doesn't necessarily mean content has to be dry or drop-dead serious. "It's a medium in which people become casual, and that's OK," Menaker said. "While we want to have continuity, we don't want to dampen the sort of entrepreneurial activity that goes on now. We want people to find the Web to be a place where everybody's comfortable." In general, she said, "just make sure that what you're presenting is something you would be proud to have someone look at. It does say something about you. People forgive a lot, but in the end, it's going to reflect on your unit and on the university."