January 22, 2014
You should be familiar with the new website design which went live last summer. You probably did not realize that there was something missing from the homepage.
The new homepage design incorporated a virtual tour of the campus which at the time of launch we did not yet have. Its place in the green box in the lower left corner was held by a campus picture with the caption, "Plan your visit." In July we began the work of creating the virtual tour by engaging CampusTours of Auburn, Maine.
This has been a fascinating undertaking. It began with Google Maps supplemented by aerial photographs taken in late July. The first decision was how to orient the map. We chose the Northeast to Southwest orientation that we have used for some time in our printed Visitor's Guide.
Once oriented the aerial map was divided into seven zones. For every building in each zone photographs were taken of the two visible sides. The photographs were then placed in the hands of the artists at CampusTours. The Hampden-Sydney team - Webmaster Cheryle Dixon, Web Content Editor Kelly Dudley, Graphic Designer Kevin Kirsch, Student Assistant Sean Owen '14, Director of Admissions Jason Ferguson, and Director of Communications Tommy Shomo - met weekly by teleconference with the CampusTours team. The most frequent comment heard from the CampusTours team was, "You have a big campus and LOTS of trees."
Behind the virtual map is a content management system which allows the multiple features to function. It fell to Kelly and Sean to research information, create copy, select photgraphs, and populate the fields.
The virtual map is more than a way to get someone from Point A to Point B, although it will do that. Move your curser over a building, click and you will see exterior and interior pictures of the building and learn what activities are housed there. You can see the renderings for the planned student center by scrolling over the sketch of the building, which will be located between Johns and Gilmer on Via Sacra. For the buildings, we have started with basic information and photographs but will expand these and can change them as needed.
One of the more interesting functions of the virtual map is the layers. A layer highlights a particular feature. It can be where to park or an encapsulated history of the College. There is also the capacity to create special-purpose temporary layers that, for example, highlight locations and provide information on Freshman Orientation or the Alumni Reunion Weekend.
On desktop, tablet, or smart phone, a campus tour is available to every prospective student no matter where he is. He can see where he might live, eat, study, and play. As we seek to recruit students from an ever wider geographical area this is an important tool.