NCWIT Tips: 11 Ways to Design More Inclusive Academic Websites


 

Your computing department’s website is an important source of information for current and prospective students. These tips will help you create a website that welcomes diverse students and effectively promotes computing and your department.



 

Use your website to promote computing and to advertise your department.

Pay close attention to the pages that interested students are likely to land on, such as your department’s home page and pages for prospective students. Details like course requirements should be easily accessible, but not front and center.

Help prospective students understand what computing is and how it connects to their career goals.

Emphasize that computing:

  • Helps people and changes the world
  • Is collaborative and involves teamwork
  • Overlaps with many fields and interests
  • Provides good quality, high paying, and abundant jobs in many industries

The connections between computing and students’ career goals can be illustrated throughout the website.

For example, include images of people engaged in many types of work; profiles of former students describing their meaningful jobs; an inspirational message from the department chair; professors’ research summaries and biographies; and departmental news that highlights collaboration and real world applications of work done by students, faculty, and alumni.

Choose images that show diverse people collaborating to build real-world applications.

Images should focus on people, rather than buildings and machinery, and should portray racial and gender diversity.

Use case studies and testimonials from diverse students, alumni, and faculty to help prospective students see themselves in your department.

Include personal information about the individual’s background and interests to highlight the diverse paths and goals of successful computer scientists. Be sure to describe the potential applications and impact of their work.

Highlight computing’s connections to fields that attract many women, such as biology, psychology, and health.

Emphasize any major tracks that target these interests, and describe minors available to students in other majors.

Publicize the department’s commitment to diversity.

Include explicit statements of commitment to diversity, and explain what the department is doing to achieve it. Describe programs that promote diversity, statistics showing improvement in diversity over time, and any awards received for diversity or diversity efforts. Promote relevant student groups or learning communities. Highlight departmental participation in events such as Grace Hopper or Regional Celebrations of Women in Computing. Consider creating a separate webpage for diversity efforts and resources. However, be careful to avoid implying that women need extra help.

Avoid reinforcing stereotypes about computing.

Avoid terms like “geek” or “nerd,” and don’t highlight interests like gaming that may lack broad appeal.

Be truthful. Don’t advertise conditions that don’t exist in your department.

If conditions are not ideal, focus on what you do have and what you are doing to improve the situation.

To maximize usability and accessibility, work with a website design expert.

Make sure your website is appealing and easy to navigate. Consider conducting surveys or focus groups with your target audiences to evaluate whether the desired messages are effectively communicated. For tips on accessibility, see http://www.washington.edu/accesscomputing/tips/.

Encourage prospective students to take action.

Provide clear and obvious links to application materials and to any recruiting or promotional events such as an upcoming departmental open house.


 


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