Zotters.org: Fun and Study in Irvine

If, like many other Anteaters, you get bored and start to wonder what UC Irvine’s campus, the city of Irvine or Orange County in general have to offer for your entertainment, hold off on visiting Facebook yet again and stop by Zotters.org. Created and maintained by fifth-year international studies major Jesse Nickles, this new Web site provides a wide array of resources to help students succeed during their time at UCI, both in academics and for extracurricular activities.
With an emphasis on user-created and -submitted content, such as a ratings system for topics relevant to students, the Web site shows great promise. It has the potential to become a useful ‘one-stop shop’ for discussing school-related issues like club activities, the pros and cons of various professors and the day-to-day issues that might arise from living in Irvine or elsewhere in Orange County. For instance, the Web site addresses the trouble of finding good places to eat and fun, non-school-related things to do in the areas surrounding the campus.
In creating the site, Nickles drew from his own experiences. ‘I was inspired by the frustration of seeing many UCI students feeling disconnected from and disenchanted with the area around Irvine,’ Nickles said. ‘I myself spent my first few years at UCI pretty jaded and uninvolved, and I created Zotters.org to help bridge the gap between the official, institutional face of UCI and the real-life, candid image that is reflected in the UCI student community.’
Upon arriving at the site, you are greeted by a mass of information: links, the main menu, a brief introduction, a window to register with Zotters, RSS (short for ‘Rich Site Summary’ or ‘Really Simple Syndication’), feeds of UCI-related news and a search engine. It can be overwhelming at first, but when you take the time to look over everything, it’s hard not to be amazed at the amount and variety of content already present on the site. The links are split into over 20 labeled categories, covering such topics as where to buy and sell coursebooks, methods of alternative transportation and various places to go for entertainment. There are also links to information on school requirements, opportunities and campus events.
In addition to said resources, the site contains six other main features. The ‘About’ page covers basic information about the site, such as its philosophy and overall purpose. The ‘Forum’ section provides a space to discuss the site’s progress, as well as various school and local opportunities and events. In the ‘Sub-domains’ section, one can find links to various student group-run Web sites hosted on Zotters.org, and other groups can request and maintain their own sites at no cost. The ‘Graphics and Maps’ section provides high-quality images of UCI logos and a map and aerial shot of the school. Finally, there are the aforementioned RSS feeds as well as the Ratings system, which allow students to review local places and attractions of interest.
The purpose of all this content is to help make Zotters.org, as Nickles puts it, ‘a central meeting place and a Web portal for all members of the UCI community. It aims to collect all relevant UCI-related information, whether official or not, in a user-friendly environment.’ Zotters.org has a unique status and connection to UCI students.
‘Since [the Zotters] are now a registered student group at UCI, we have an official link to campus, but at the same time we have more freedom to share third-party resources such as Facebook without worrying so much about legalities,’ Nickles added.
Although it lacks the ‘crispness”of the main UCI Web site, the layout of Zotters.org, adapted from a pre-made template, is generally easy on the eyes and easy to navigate. The color scheme, consisting of various shades of black and blue, is soothing and aesthetically pleasing. The layout clearly marks different pages, and differentiation in the content of each page itself is plain to see. The sidebar containing the aforementioned search engine, Zotters account window and RSS feeds makes the site appear somewhat cluttered, but is easy to ignore after a few moments of browsing.
One particularly interesting feature of the layout, in this writer’s opinion, is a space at the top of the site where the main picture lies. Similar to UCI’s main Web site, this often vivid and engaging picture captures different people associated with UCI. Subjects have ranged from members of student organizations, performers, professors and various speakers. Better yet, the photo changes with every refresh of the page. Finally, though a banner on the site warns that the site ‘only displays correctly in Mozilla Firefox,’ this is not too much of a problem, as the site is still bearable to look at and navigate in Internet Explorer (that being said, Firefox is easy to install and is a great browser to use in general).
Nickles has great hopes for the future of the site. ‘I personally hope that Zotters.org will become a cornerstone of UCI’s Internet resources,’ Nickles said. ‘I hope that it can survive the on-campus and off-campus concerns regarding legality, endorsements, etc. and can ultimately become an important resource for Orange County in general. I hope that UCI students will begin to submit more information to the site and will begin to trust it as a central meeting place.’
Zotters.org already has a lot to offer, and with your help and support, Nickles’ hopes can eventually be met to make the site a great resource for people who are either new or familiar with Irvine, which will help make spending time in the area a lot more enjoyable.