Thursday, November 29, 2007

Weekly re.web Podcast: Be Different

Episode five of the re.web podcast is called "If You Always Do What You Always Did."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Happy Birthday

The re.web project blog celebrates one year today. On November 29, 2006, we wrote our first "welcome to the blog" post. Not unlike a baby's first year, re.web doesn't look anything like it's birth photo.

Looking back:
* it was a busy 12 months ... nearly 70 blog posts
* we wish there were more blog comments to brag about ... only 38

Let's shoot for more Tribe voices in the year to come.

posted by Tina Coleman

Friday, November 23, 2007

More of the Inner Working of a CMS

The College is on Thanksgiving Break. But we just can't stop thinking about all the cool features we're discovering within a fully integrated mid-tier web content management system (CMS)!

Link Management

Shall we check every page on our server every day, clicking on every link just to be sure that the links continue to work? Well, that's one way to keep things working.


In our current Web environment, I have had occasion to work with users to restore content that has been inadvertently deleted...

Are you thinking, "There's got to be a better way?" See this week's discussion, then let us know that you think.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is Web Design?

Don't ask me, I'm not an expert. But I do read Jeffrey Zeldman's blog, A List Apart, and I recommend his post entitled "Understanding Web Design." Zeldman asserts that many, including those who design web sites, don't understand web design.

According to Zeldman,
Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

Zeldman's answer feels right to me. From the beginning, I've subscribed to the idea that web design is a professional activity. So, while drafting this post, I googled "how to choose a web design" and found Dave Taylor's How to Pick a Web Designer. My favorite part of what Dave wrote?

Before we go further, let's clarify some of the reasons I think you might not want to consider creating a web site yourself. The greatest reason is the same one that causes you to use a mechanic to fix the pinging in your car engine, a plumber to redo the kitchen faucet and a tailor to shorten your pants: experts do a better job than amateurs. This is a universal truth that the 'do it yourself' industry would rather we ignored, and, of course, there are some pretty darn talented amateurs, but the reality of life is that people who focus on a specific area can learn more about it, gain more experience, and produce better end-results than a weekend amateur or someone who buys the Time-Life home improvement books.

As W&M moves toward a decision about the new design ("the look and feel") for our home page, I know that there will be increased interest in the re.web project. Here are a couple of reasons why I'm confident we'll make the right decision:

  1. We'll be choosing from a set of carefully crafted concepts that are professionally designed.

  2. Our choice about which design to use will be influenced by data. We plan to ask hundreds of current high school juniors and all of our early decision admits what they think about several design options. We'll continue to confirm our design decisions with impressions from alumni, faculty, staff, and current students.

Stay tuned.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, November 16, 2007

More about the CMS

Two more Key Features

We've updated our discussion about a CMS for the W&M Web. In our previous discussion we talked about what a CMS is and how the Processing Engine and Data Repository work together to form the back-end, heavy-lifting dynamo of the system. Here are some excerpts from our newest topics...

What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)?

For those unfamiliar with this era (pre-1984), word processing was done by typing text, and adding commands (bold, underline, etc.) around the text... Early Wiki and Blog tools required learning a special syntax of commands (HTML, Wiki markup, Markdown) to wrap around your text (déjà vu?) to get the appropriate formatting... With re.web, WYSIWYG has come to the W&M web!

Templates and Themes

Professional quality templates (such as the ones mStoner is working on for us) include not only the layout of the textual and graphical elements of the page, but also a stylesheet that defines how those various textual and graphical elements should look... How many templates will we have? This is a trick question.
See the whole discussion, then let us know that you think.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Weekly re.web Podcast: Will the new W&M site be beautiful?

Episode four of the re.web podcast is called "Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder, and It's Only Skin Deep."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Destination and Compass

If you are reading the mStoner blog, you know that Chris Sherrill has written a couple of posts about the importance of strategy. In particular, I benefited from his What is Strategy? entry. His definition of a strategic plan as ". . . a combination of destination and compass" was of timely help to me as I prepared for a recent presentation to the Communications Committee of the W&M Foundation Board.

I'm even more encouraged by his subsequent post called Applied Strategy. And not because of the shout out to W&M's re.web project ... because managing a plan (compass) applied to a great W&M web project (destination) is near and dear to my heart.

posted by Susan Evans

Saturday, November 10, 2007

mStoner got some Education

Patrick and Voltaire from mStoner spent Thursday, November 8 in Jones Hall meeting with about 20 faculty, staff and students in the School of Education. Through detailed, face-to-face discussions, the mStoner team gathered what they need to know about mission, programs, and all that is special about this W&M school. The data will make for a great new web presence.

Thanks go to Dot Osborne for her skill with logistics and her work to put together an assortment of recent publications and materials for mStoner review. It was a long day, but Patrick and Voltaire were impressed by the vibrant and interesting nature of the School of Education. Thanks also to Sue Thompson for keeping the mStoner team supplied with candy during the post-lunch slump.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, November 9, 2007

Do we need a CMS?

What is a CMS and why does the W&M web site need one?
As Susan Evans (chair of re.web) discussed in her recent podcast, we've been looking at products, talking to vendors and staring at spreadsheets in windowless conference rooms. Why? We're trying to get our heads around what CMS products are available, what features they offer, and which of those features provide us the greatest impact for a dynamic and sustainable web environment. With the help of our friends at mStoner, we've been making progress.

In an attempt to broaden the discussion, and to establish a consistent vocabulary within the College community, let's discuss some of the features we're finding in these products, and how they might make things "better" within the W&M web.

Some Key CMS Features:

In this and subsequent posts, I will discuss specific features (or categories of features) offered by most of the CMS products we are vetting. Again, our goal is to explain the feature and how it is intended to improve our web site.

To get things started, today's post will cover a general definition of a CMS, as well as two important feature sets we've identified:
  • The Processing Engine and Data Repository
  • Users and Permissions
So, if you are unsure exactly what we mean by a CMS, or wonder how features such as these might be useful to the W&M web presence, read what we're thinking...

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Student Affairs Jumping on the Technology Bandwagon

I had the pleasure this morning of presenting to the Student Affairs division at the College about re.web. The theme for this month's meeting was all about technology.

I am encouraged by the fact that they realized some time last year that they needed to keep up with the technologies of William and Mary students. This led them to create a Student Affairs Technology Committee. With each admitted class comes new ways to communicate both before they are here and after they arrive. And, one of the most important ways to communicate with them is through our web site.

The presentation went well and there were no doubts as to why we are doing this project. But, the highlight comes from the first question I asked when I began. The question was: "Is there anyone here who has not heard of re.web?" In the room with 60+ people from about 10 different departments, not one hand was raised.

posted by Tina Coleman

Weekly re.web Podcast: Good News or Bad News?

Episode three of our weekly podcast about re.web is called "Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?" Anyone tuning in on these?
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, November 2, 2007

mStoner and the School of Education

mStoner will be back in Williamsburg next week. One of their tasks: complete strategic discovery sessions for the W&M School of Education.

For those of you who may have missed our earlier posts, strategic discovery is one of the ways mStoner learns about our institution. Members of the mStoner team (in this case, Patrick DiMichele and Voltaire Santos Miran) spend a day meeting with small groups of students, faculty and staff.

We want our new web presence to be both cohesive and flexible. To that end, the School of Education (along with the School of Law and VIMS) will have a visual design and site layout that makes sense for them. In short, they will maintain a resemblance to while developing their own content and character.

Next week's strategic discovery will lay the foundation for a successful redesign of the School of Education web site.

posted by Joel Pattison

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weekly re.web Podcast: Go Ask Alice

Episode two of our weekly podcast about re.web is called "If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any Road Will Take You There." Enjoy!
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans