By Thomas Guengerich
SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 9, 2008 – Technical Communications professor Clint Lanier is excited about the possibilities in front of him – both as New Mexico Tech’s website designer and as an instructor.
Lanier and a handful of his students will spend the school year redesigning the New Mexico Tech website.
Lanier, who specializes in interface design, approaches technical communications with a scientific eye. He was attracted to Tech because the university is one of a handful of schools in the nation that offers a bachelor’s of science – and not arts – in technical communications.
“That’s important, because there’s a difference between technical communications and literature,” he said. “We engineer things; we build things; and we’re integrated with technology.”
Technical communications graduates from Tech are well-prepared to enter the field because of their general education requirements in science – including physics and calculus, Lanier said. He’s heard that from a major recruiter from Texas who recruits at New Mexico Tech.
“This is the greatest technical communications program that no one has heard of,” he said. “I see the potential of this little school and I wanted to come here. We have a synergy with engineering.”
Lanier has enlisted a small core of students to help with photography, graphics and coding. In his upper level classes, like TC 361 Advanced Web Design last spring, students redesigned the Technical Communications Program website. This semester, several students are working on the website as part of TC 491 Independent Study – Applied Web Design.
The students include Greg Koch, Vincent Urias, Rebecca Birch, Martin Riggenbach, Anthony Perreault and Danielle Rose. Koch, Perrault, Riggenbach and Birch have been hired to work on the project.
“We face a challenge,” he said. “University websites are unique because they have many audiences. However, we can define those audiences and assume they’ll go to certain places on the website.”
A Las Cruces native, Lanier is a three-time graduate from New Mexico State University, with an emphasis on technical communication and web design.
Lanier has two main tasks: design a basic graphic template and construct a new navigational architecture. One main criticisms of the existing website is accessibility –users have difficulty finding important information.
“A university website is like a big shopping mall,” he said. “You go to Cottonwood Mall, but you’re not buying anything from Cottonwood Mall. You are going to all these storefronts. Our portal is the mall and the departments are the storefronts. People go through multiple doors to get in.”
Lanier is crafting a sensible, accessible array of pointers – or links – to help the various visitors find what they want easily. By designing a comprehensive navigational architecture, Lanier will make everything easy to find.
He expects to present several prototypes to the website committee by the end of the fall semester, then deploy the new site by the end of the spring semester.
As for content, Lanier will work with each administrative department to help them craft their verbiage. The academic departments and research divisions – many of which already have dynamic sites – will continue to manage their content.
Once the site goes live, Lanier will step down and take more of a support role. Tech will hire a full-time permanent webmaster to manage and maintain the site.
– NMT –