May 1, 2006

Redesigned CUinfo is place to go for news about campus concerns

Like Star Trek, CUinfo continues to please fans by returning again and again in new versions.

Its latest incarnation, redesigned by the Cornell Office of Web Communications (OWC) and Cornell Information Technologies to conform to the style of the rest of the university gateway, the "insider's front page" offers a new page top including a weather forecast, a list of most-used links and a section called "The Buzz on Campus." The "Buzz" focuses on topics of special interest to the internal campus community, like volunteering for Slope Day or the latest information on traffic and transportation.

Tommy Bruce, vice president for university communications, said he hopes the new CUinfo site will become a place where "people will look for information about events of concern to the community, such as the recent stabbing incident on campus."

But never fear: The extensive list of Cornell Web sites is still there, just rearranged.

The new CUinfo version will be maintained by OWC, although Tim Perry, who previously maintained the page for Cornell Information Technologies (CIT), retains shared ownership.

Technically, CUinfo violates one of the primary rules for Web page design: You're not supposed to have so many links on one page. But those who are in the habit of using it and already know where they want to go in the Cornell Web space say it is quicker and easier than drilling down through several layers of "properly designed" menus. Some call it "info for the insider."

CUinfo was born in the age of Gopher, a way of navigating the Internet by selecting items from a menu -- usually with the keyboard -- with each menu stepping down to more choices. CUinfo was the top page on the CIT Gopher server. When the World Wide Web came into being, a Web version became Cornell's front page.

That went on until 1996, when the Division of University Relations (now University Communications) created a new front page designed to appeal to an external audience. CUinfo continued with an ingenious technical trick: If you typed in "www.cornell.edu" from a computer outside the Cornell system, you got the new front page. If you entered the same address from inside Cornell, you got the utilitarian CUinfo page. In 2001 the dual identity was dropped, and Cornell now has only one official front page, redesigned in 2004 by OWC.

But unofficially, perhaps three front pages including the customizable Uportal. Some day, OWC Director Diane Kubarek hopes to find a way to blend or interconnect all three. In the meantime, you can still boldly go to CUinfo at http://www.cuinfo.cornell.edu, or follow the link at the bottom of the Cornell front page.