Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Weekly re.web Podcast: Dear Santa

Episode eight of the re.web podcast is called "Making a List and Checking It Twice."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

Our weekly podcast will resume after the holidays ... tune in on January 3, 2008.
posted by Susan Evans

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tough Choices

What if it came down to this...

The re.web project team has been compiling CMS product specs, grilling vendors, running references, and bugging our friends at mStoner and Global Image for their opinions on CMS products.

You may be wondering:
Have you guys selected a CMS yet?
Well, "not yet" is the best answer we have so far. But here's something we've discovered:
Perfection is elusive!
Since November, I've been explaining some of the features we're looking for in a CMS. It's a lot of information, and the direct benefits are often hard to visualize. But we're doing our homework, building spreadsheets, and seeing many different approaches to get at the same result.

In doing this research, we've found that no single product is "the best" in every category. Here's an example:
There's a product we've seen that has a super-easy interface for the average content editor to make updates. But when we finally had the opportunity to get hands-on, we found out that this slick experience is only for folks using Internet Explorer on Windows.
So we thought we'd survey our web editors. How many could possibly be using Firefox, Opera, or Safari? Turns out, it's close to 50%. Does that rule out the super-easy product?

Maybe, if this were the only pair of issues we had to weigh. But we need to compare the complexity of building Templates, ease of reusing content, and many other factors.

Our goal over this next week, before we leave for break, is to come up with a plan. Not just a plan for weighing these criteria, but a plan for involving some other folks around campus to help us wrestle with these issues.

There really is a lot going on behind the scenes right now. So far, many of you just have our word for it. Watch this space over the next few weeks and I think you'll start to see much more tangible evidence!

For those who are interested in how our Web editors compare to the rest of the Web, here are recent statistics on browser usage. And here's Wikipedia's info about the second browser war.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Sneak Peek

The air was electric with anticipation as tens of thousands of rabid fans weaved their way past hacky sack circles, t-shirts sales, and long Porta-John lines descending on a crowded stage of speaker stacks and the ultimate in pyrotechnics…

Ok, well not exactly.

Actually it was Blow Hall room 311 and this week a lucky few got a sneak peek at the new look for the W&M web. But it was “electric”. We have been anxiously waiting for this day and mStoner did not disappoint. Mark and Patrick presented three design concepts to the groups and the prevailing notion- we cannot go wrong with any of the three. The concepts were created by three different designers and covered the full spectrum of what many consider to be the expectations of the W&M community- from traditional and conservative to bold and playful. The attention to detail was obvious and their professionalism true to what we have come to expect.

While the concepts differed in style there were important similarities:
  • a lot of W&M student and campus imagery
  • an accurate and carefully crafted Information Architecture
  • simple and helpful navigation
  • support of web standards
  • ability to implement comfortably in a CMS
  • spiffs

What are spiffs? I didn’t know either. They are special interest features “with an extra ‘f’” and all the designs made use of them on the top and secondary (a.k.a. landing) pages.
It was obvious that mStoner listened carefully to everyone they met during their recent intake sessions. To those of you who participated in the discussions, thank you again- I believe you will find your ideas and opinions were a great influence.

Beyond the sneak peek presentations and initial feedback collected here, mStoner is conducting usability tests and surveys of our three concepts with early decision W&M students and with high schools juniors. It is comforting to know that they too are committed to making our web presence a true source of tribe pride.

posted by Mark Windley

Weekly re.web Podcast: Did I Say That?

Episode seven of the re.web podcast is called "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writing for the Web

This Monday, 20 participants and several observers took part in re.web’s Writing for the Web workshop presented by Mark Sheehy of mStoner. Why? Can't we write already? Well, there are a few steps to follow that are unique to websites:
  1. Consider your target audience. Who are they? What are they looking for? What do YOU want to tell them?

  2. Consider your content. Does it reflect the needs outlined in Point 1 (above)? Is it accurate? Who is responsible for keeping it accurate? How often should it be updated?

  3. Consider the website as a whole. Are there others working on the site who should know about the information you are posting? Who else would want to link to your information?

  4. Consider the portion of the website where your information will live. What is its Information Architecture? How will you link to the new page? How will the new page link to other information on your site?

  5. NOW, you can start writing your page. Unless the previous steps are followed, you risk posting information that is irrelevant, unfocused, and difficult to find. Why would you want to do that?
When it comes to actual writing, Mark made several points:
  • People read a website the way we used to read newspapers. They head straight to the information most relevant to them; taking note of the "headlines" they may want to go back to while on their way. Make their key information easy to find, and they'll be more open to absorbing the information YOU want them to come away with.
  • Like newspapers, people decide what to read based on the headline and first paragraph. In a web page, the "headline" is either the title of the web document, or it is the text that is used as the link to that document. Be careful how you phrase the links.

  • There are many points of entry to a webpage. We have to write so that every web page makes sense on its own, as well as within the greater context.

  • People are not waiting to download and then read lengthy documents to find snippets of information. We’ve got to present information more effeciently than posting pdfs.
The re.web project is all about giving us the tools and framework to make our information easier to find. It is up to the content providers to make that information effective once the user gets there.

The document "The Road to the New W&M Web Presence" (pdf) gives more tips on writing for the web. The web team will be putting together more workshops in the future. If you are interested in attending one, please let us know!

posted by Kathy Larrieu

Monday, December 10, 2007

Faculty Involvement in re.web

Last week, I had the chance to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Assembly. This group of faculty members meets regularly with Provost Geoff Feiss and I was invited to talk about the W&M web redesign.

While preparing for the meeting, I decided to focus my remarks on the nature of faculty involvement in the re.web project. So, I put together a summary of faculty participation to date and provided copies at the meeting. I have to say, it's looking pretty good. Since May 2006, we've involved 46 individual members of the faculty in the web redesign effort!

Later this week, we're hosting two meetings for faculty to view possible new W&M Home page designs. About 50 faculty members received invitations to attend.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, December 7, 2007

Two more weeks, two more CMS features...

It's been two weeks since we last discussed Content Management Systems. But that doesn't mean we have let the topic rest!

If you have been reading the blog, you know that we have been busy recently. Voltaire and Devon had the opportunity to visit with our colleagues at VIMS, speak to the Board of Visitors, and have less formal meetings with other folks while they were here.

What you might not know is that the re.web project team has been hard at work behind the scenes:
  • We took a trip across the bridge to begin technical conversations with the ITNS staff at VIMS prior to the mStoner visit.
  • Mark Windley has been calling and emailing CMS vendors, trying to find out which products provide the features we most desire (all these cool features we've been telling you about).
  • And Mark and I both have been running down references on some of the key CMS vendors, to see what other institutions think.
So that's our excuse for taking a week off from the exciting discussion of CMS features... But now we're back, with two cool new features to highlight:
  • Workflow
  • Content Reuse
See this week's discussion, and let us know what you think!

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The BOV and Me

Devon Moore, Voltaire Miran, and I were guests at the W&M Board of Visitors meeting on campus today. Voltaire's presentation about a web strategy for the College was well received and board members were presented with copies of the W&M web strategy report.

The questions and comments of individual board members demonstrate commitment to a great web site for W&M. It is gratifying to hear from our Board (loved the round of applause) and we will continue to involve them in re.web!

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Over the River and Through the Woods

Well, maybe that should be reversed. The mStoner consultants had to travel through the woods on the Colonial Parkway and then head over the George P. Coleman Bridge to arrive at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in Gloucester Point today. This is the one William and Mary graduate school not located in Williamsburg. But, they have the distinct privilege of working on beautiful waterfront property along the York River.

As of 2:00 p.m., Voltaire Santos Miran and Devon Moore had met with about 30 folks for the VIMS strategic discovery. The enthusiasm and excitement about the re.web project was evident as they shared their ideas and thoughts about VIMS and how their web presence could speak for what the school is about.

But, the day isn't over yet. With over three hours of meetings still ahead, the consultants have more to discover from our marine science colleagues.

posted by Tina Coleman

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Weekly re.web Podcast: Coming to you from VIMS today

Episode six of the re.web podcast is called "Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The W&M Web and More

Lately, I've been thinking about all that we have in our bag of tricks that will contribute to an exceptional W&M web presence. For instance, in addition to the W&M web site, we have myWM, W&M on iTunesU, Facebook, and even Second Life as possibilities. The challenge will be integrating these tools in a way that supports the College's mission and goals.

I read the eduStyle blog regularly and earlier this week George Mason's Facebook site was highlighted as a standout among social sites.

posted by Susan Evans