For most of you, this edition of ARAS Connections will be your first look at the new design of ARAS Online. When we first went online over a decade ago, I wrote about our tendency to think of online sites behaving in the same way we imagine Cheerios to appear on the shelf in the supermarket. They just spontaneously generate in place. When one package is gone, another one magically takes its place. But neither Cheerios nor the new ARAS Online site and ARAS Connections spontaneously generate. They are carefully crafted over a long period of time. Many hands and minds have collaborated to create the front end design (what you see on your computer screen) and the back end technology (what makes what you see on the screen possible).
This new version of ARAS Connections and ARAS Online is the result of the hard work of many people, especially Dyad Communications, John Kyle, Chris Miller, Carol Herbert, and Allison Tuzo. I talked with Allison to get her impressions of what has been central to the process—as Allison has been in the center of it all.
1. The redesign project began with a Pratt design class lead by David Walczyk spending a semester envisioning new ways for ARAS to present itself to the world. Their creative efforts framed and stimulated an extended discussion within ARAS on how best we could incorporate the newest advances in online design and technology. These lively exchanges resulted in our hiring Dyad Communications to do the creative work of redesigning our site. This process led to a more conscious articulation of our goals for the site:
a. To enhance the search capacities of the site to enable the easiest and quickest location of material within the archive itself and our rapidly growing library of articles and books.
b. To develop better ways of displaying the results of our enhanced search capacities. We wanted to offer varied ways of viewing images and their commentaries that would be responsive to the user’s wishes and needs at the moment.
c. To create a new “look” for ARAS Online and ARAS Connections with an aesthetic that reflects a vision of who we are and who we aspire to become.
2. After defining these goals with Dyad Communications, we assembled a team to realize the vision that they helped us articulate. John Kyle led the “back end” team, responsible for making all the technological advances. Dyad continued to lead the design efforts for the front end. Chris Miller was brought in to help with the migration of data into Drupal, a content management system that allows maximum flexibility in being able to continuously update, alter and add to ARAS Online. The migration of the data into Drupal proved to be one of the most difficult tasks because of the depth and breadth of material contained within the ARAS site.
In exploring ARAS Online you will soon discover that this has been a wonderfully successful project. We have a vastly improved site with enhanced search capacities as well as enhanced quality and ways in which to display images, commentaries, articles and books The site has many unique features that will delight users including much better organization of information. And, it is beautiful!!!
I have only one personal regret about our new site. We have had to say goodbye to our wonderful row of divine heads who, for over a decade, served as our “logo” on the homepage of both ARAS Online and ARAS Connections. I fought to save them because I became so attached to them as the “calling card” of ARAS that told the world we were dedicated to presenting archetypal, symbolic images from around the world. I am sad about this loss, but eventually accepted it in favor of the coherence and beauty of the new design. We bid our friends farewell as we send them off into the ether of cyberspace. They served us well.