I'm sure you've all seen the now infamous XKCD comic on this, i.e., why the heck can't we find anything on most universities' websites?
I can (kind of) forgive universities et large. Professional web design is expensive, and if a university shelled out a lot of money in 2006 to make a flash(y) website, in this economy I can sort of forgive them not wanting to update.
Computer Science departments honestly have no excuse. They have a plethora of free labor (undergrads) who have likely been writing web code since they were tweens. All they need is someone (department head? faculty committee?) to figure out what sort of content they want, write it down, and let a few undergrads loose on it. Done, problem solved.
Honestly, it's not about fancy designs, it's about allowing people to find the information they need easily, and keeping that information current. Here's all a department needs. This information helps everyone - new people, old people, visitors, etc.
- Faculty: Name, Title, Contact Information, Research/Teaching Interests.
- Staff: Name, Title, Contact Information, Job Duties.
Bonus points if this information is current. I find it really weird when I go to a department's website and someone who got tenure 3 years ago is still listed as "Assistant Professor", or someone who left to go to another university is still listed.
Staff job information is useful too. One of the new students in our group didn't know where to go to get pencils. Why wasn't this info on the webpage? (i.e., "Office Supplies, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, Room 227")
Bonus points for a headshot. When I attend an event where I know a particular person will be, I like being able to identify them in advance. I had to attend something last week and talk to someone, and due to lack of a photograph, I had to go up to every person and ask, "Are you so-and-so?"
- Phone Number
- Email address for general questions
You would be shocked how many places don't list directions to their department, or don't put their address in an easy-to-find place. I know, in this day and age, people can use google maps, but it's the principle of the thing. It should be easy for visitors to find the information they need - there's no other reason to have a website.
- Main areas of interest
- Links to relevant faculty/staff/students
This section honestly doesn't need a lot. If the department wants to throw in something about student project highlights, that's fine, or maybe a mission statement of some sort. But honestly, this should just give people a quick overview of what this department is all about. Short and sweet.
- Degrees Offered
- B.S.: Overview
- M.S: Overview
- PhD: Overview
- Courses Offered
- 2010 Course Listing
- Upcoming Talks
- Whatever else is important (new grants, new faculty, new graduate students, etc).
That's it! Done.
Frankly, not having this stuff and having tons of other useless stuff is just embarrassing. It reflects poorly on the department, regardless of institution/program prestige. It simply displays an inability to organize and be responsible for content. Who'd want to attend school / work / visit a place that can't even build a website?
Also, again, being consistent with wanting to hire people / have students with disabilities, make sure your website is accessible. This is not about grumbling about having to comply with some law, this is about making sure that the millions of people with disabilities out there who have an interest in Computer Science can actually learn how fantastically wonderful your department is without having to go to great effort. This can be woven into a lesson to the students - inclusive software/hardware design is hopefully already a strong component of the department's teaching anyway.