Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weekly re.web Podcast: The Oscars at W&M?

Episode 13 of the re.web podcast is called "The Envelope Please."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Have we met? An update on the CMS demonstrations

I don't believe we have met before. I apologize, I hope that will change soon. It was a nice turnout at the CMS demonstrations. There were a lot of new faces for me. (So, how much longer can I use the “I am new here” excuse?) Anyway, I am glad we peaked the interest of so many and we were able to collect some great feedback on both Cascade Server and RedDot.

Here's a summary of the feedback we collected.

Those of you who like Cascade...
  • found the dashboard clean and intuitive
  • liked the folders and the representation of pages in relation to parent, child, and sibling pages
  • liked that it reminded you of Dreamweaver and the current WM Web Templates
  • preferred the tree view in searching for links and assets
  • found the interface more intuitive

The Cons:
  • sunrise/sunset of a page limited to a single cycle
  • the need to create folders for "children" pages
  • can't preview pages you are linking to within the link management window
  • cannot upload external graphics “on the fly” (while WYSIWYG editing) (Retraction: You CAN upload graphics while you are editing a page in WYSIWYG)
  • workflow creation required XML with hard-coded users/groups (Retraction: It does not require XML, there is a workflow builder, we did not see this in detail)
  • aggregating news into lists seems complicated

Those of you who liked RedDot ...
  • liked it's image manipulation features
  • found it easier to create "children" pages
  • liked that you can check visually that a page you want to link to is correct
  • preferred the internal search for finding links and assets
  • liked the “Keyword linking” for aggregating news into lists
  • liked how easy workflow creation seemed
  • liked that a page can have infinite relationships (parents)
  • found the interface more intuitive

The Cons:
  • too many pop-up windows within editing
  • no viewable folder structure to see relationships of pages
  • requires IE for some administration

As far as the “cons,” we are looking into the implementation options of both products to see what we can address. Both Cascade Server and RedDot have some flexibility including plugins and customization options that we were not shown in these short and specific demonstrations.

Unfortunately, web editors, we still have a tough decision to make, and most unfortunate of all some of you may be disappointed. However, we take some solace in the scores we collected on this statement- “With training I think I can learn this product.” Where 5 = strongly agree, across all three of Thursday's sessions both Cascade Server and RedDot received an average between 4.3 and 4.75! We're convinced either of these products will do what we need and please remember whichever way we go, we intend to give you the training you need. So maybe we will meet after all.

posted by Mark Windley

Sunday, January 27, 2008

With "Vessels" in the IA

Sandwiched between several CMS demos and meetings attended by the VIMS contingent, a few of us met in the late afternoon last Wednesday to talk about the VIMS web strategy. Voltaire Miran walked through a detailed report with Dave Malmquist, Barb Parcell, Tanya Ward, Newt Munson and me. The small conference room in Blow Hall was bursting with ideas, questions, and suggestions. Truth be told, I had to leave just after five that day because it was my daughter's 17th birthday. The VIMS crew stayed until 5:30PM or so to wrap up the planning for a new VIMS web site with Voltaire.

We are pleased by the work of the mStoner team. I hope Andrew Bauserman won't mind that I quote from an email he sent after reading the VIMS Web Strategy Report:

WOW !!!
mStoner really seems to me to have done their homework, *listened* to what the folks at VIMS had to say, and have put together a consistent IA across a myriad of diverse components.

WOW !!!
They make it look so simple. It's like F=ma is such a simple formula that a high school student can learn it and use it, but it took thousands of years of human civilization before Newton was kind enough to write it down so simply for us. Thankfully, VIMS was not asked to wait thousands of years for the clarity they received today.

It is ... impressive that even the wire frames, which are simple placeholders for the navigation and such, are not mere cut-and-paste jobs off of each other, the Law wire frame, or the original W&M wire frame - but really represent the "weight" placed on key elements (...e.g., the VIMS newsletter signup on their root page...).

I think we selected the right company for the strategy, IA, and design aspects of re.web!

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, January 25, 2008

How a web site isn't like a house...

On Thursday, January 24, members of the School of Education, mStoner and the re.web project team gathered in Dean Virginia McLaughlin's office to discuss the SOE's web strategy. mStoner laid out their carefully-prepared plan and we talked about ideas, revisions, and the next steps in the process. It was an invaluable meeting.

Immediately before the web strategy presentation Ginnie McLaughlin and Tom Ward had had been discussing the School of Education's new building with architects and contractors; making final preparations before construction begins. I was struck by this dichotomy: the permanence of the building project and the constant transformation of the web project.

The re.web project is bringing about many lasting changes (our site's underlying architecture and W&M's model of web governance to name a few). If mistakes are made while creating something out of concrete and steel, those mistakes are going to live on for a very long time. A simple error can cost millions of dollars to fix. And poorly designed buildings pose a health risk to their inhabitants.

Now consider the web. Don't like a certain picture? Delete it. Obsolete font? Change it. A page is inaccurate or wrong? Update it. Naturally we should get things right the first time. Believe me, we are trying very hard to do just that. But it's comforting to know that if we are guilty of an oversight, it won't linger on for decades to come.

It's days like these I'm glad I'm a web developer.

-Posted by Joel Pattison... who believes the School of Education's new building is going to be amazing and completely free of oversights, thanks to the hard work and dedication of its future inhabitants.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wow, what a turnout!

Great turnout for the CMS Demonstration today - we had nearly one hundred show up for the three sessions. Kevin Zink from Global Image did a great job showing the features of Hannon Hill's Cascade and RedDot CMS.

We're resting ... more once we recover.

Thanks All!!

posted by Susan Evans

Weekly re.web Podcast: Its Time to Choose

Episode twelve of the re.web podcast is called "Good Choices Are Made from Good Options."

Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, January 21, 2008

Have you met my sister?

Voltaire Miran from mStoner will be back on campus this week and he'll be bringing his "sister." Global Image is mStoner’s technological right-hand and sister company. To date, we know just the telephone voices of the Global Image team! Because, through a number of conference calls, Michael Burks and Kevin Zink have been involved with our CMS selection for several months.

Michael and Kevin will help us host a series of meetings and demonstrations on Wednesday, January 23 and Thursday, January 24. Many of you are already scheduled to be a part of these events. Your thoughts and impressions during this final review of two content management systems, Hannon Hill's Cascade Server and RedDot CMS, is critical.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Difference Between Theory and Practice

Specific constructive criticism in a comment from Dave X inspired this blog entry. (See Dave's comments on Susan's January 17, 2008 blog entry.) We like to hear what others are thinking. And specific examples are something we can more easily address and use for improving the College web presence.

Dave X references this W3C document. In theory, I agree that URIs should not be as disposable as we often treat them. Our circumstances, however, remind me of Yogi Berra's famous insight: "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

Here's an unfortunate truth from the W3C page:
[Excuse] We just reorganized our website to make it better.
[Response]Do you really feel that the old URIs cannot be kept running? If so, you chose them very badly. Think of your new ones so that you will be able to keep then running after the next redesign.

We are moving from a very decentralized structure that has grown organically over time with no central planning or oversight. As we move into a new web environment, there will be broken links. I cannot say how many - probably lots. They may have been chosen badly. Others may result from decoupling content from our org chart (another way to say they were chosen badly). For high profile sites and pages, we may leave redirects behind. But there's a practical limit to creating redirects.

What are our hopes moving forward from re.web?

Some content changes over time. The URL may not change, but the content will. The CMS allows for content versioning, histories, and scheduling to move in current information to existing pages. This doesn't break bookmarks, but may make the bookmark irrelevant for the intended use. But I think this is within the spirit of the W3C article in question.

Other content is more static and can remain in its posted form indefinitely (like a news story about Her Majesty's visit). Blogs have the notion of "permalink", and Wikipedia has the notion of web-accessible versions - both of which are designed to handle some of these challenges. Our hope is that much of our content will live in this form for quite some time.

There is a small subset of content that we ought to treat as an "authoritative source" - that is, the one place that we look and link for specific information. These links should be treated as more "valued" than others, and should be widely referenced. If it should happen that this "authoritative source" moves, a redirect would be warranted.

But these three types of content don't seem to capture all possibilities. Web application (such as facebook or youtube) provide both services and content - and there is no guarantee of continuance of deep links within these systems. If I remove my profile from facebook, somebody's bookmarks might fail. If a video clip is removed from YouTube, the link in the latest re.web blog post will be rendered dead.

As the College web presence embraces some of the elements often lumped under the "Web 2.0" moniker, we may have similarly transient content on our site. Certainly no "authoritative source" should be treated this way, nor the main news stories about Her Majesty's visit. But student profiles, posts within an admission blog, or the like may be. That's just the nature of the web.

I'll make a final point. Because we choose to release content on a web site, does that obligate the site to host the content forever? In the non-web world we see companies like Disney release movies for sale for a limited time only. Should the College never remove stale content? FOIA requires, and the CMS provides, storage and retrieval of historical documents. But I'd argue for the College to have the option to post and remove Web pages when we find it appropriate to do so.

I don't know whether I've convinced any of you of my own opinion on the subject - but I hope you know we are taking your points seriously and will make the efforts we can to keep some continuity for our audience as we roll out a new College web presence.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

What's a CMS: A Final Bash

The College will soon be selecting a Web Content Management System as part of the re.web initiative. The decision will take into account feedback from a wide range of individuals with differing backgrounds, and different levels of interaction with the web.

In fact, if you are part of the College community, you can participate in our CMS demonstration events and provide us with your opinions as well.

For our loyal readers who wish to be prepared participants for this event, we've posted the last of our explanations about CMS features and their uses. Here are some questions we've addressed:

Why Comply?
Is there more than text?
Must we say IA?
Does it play nicely with others?

That just about covers it. Is there something else you would like the CMS to do? Or maybe something you'd like to see on the W&M web after re.web? Let us know.

For the curious, this week's title was inspired by my favorite Rowan Atkinson clip, A final bash, from his live stage show.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weekly re.web Podcast: It's Still Raining and It's Still Thursday

Episode eleven of the re.web podcast is called "Come Rain or Come Shine."

Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, January 14, 2008

GUEST BLOGGER: I'm Eating Up This re.web Thing

I don't like coleslaw. Usually.

Nonetheless, the cabbage-based side dish played a supporting role in my new favorite dining experience, which happened at a small restaurant in Williamsburg called A Chef's Kitchen. There chef John Gonzales, author of two cookbooks for Colonial Wiliamsburg, prepares all the food in plain view of the patrons. He tells stories. He explains choices. He answers questions. It's the sensory equivalent of immersion into the Food Network, minus the obnoxiousness and the colorful sweaters.

Turns out that even coleslaw, which I would not miss if I never saw its mayonnaise version again, can be put together one carefully chosen ingredient at a time and creatively distinguished from the norm (in this case with extra kick from wasabi) in a manner that appeals to me. This particular coleslaw tasted so good that I wondered whether I genuinely liked it that much, or whether I merely admired the thoughtfulness that went into its preparation. Then I wondered how meaningful that difference is. Then I wondered whether my wife would finish all of hers, because I wanted more.

Fortunately for all of us, the re.web project employs some of the same techniques for transparency, minus tastes and smells (for now anyway). The hope, and so far the remarkable achievement, has been to instill respect for the process and acceptance of the outcomes, even when all the stakeholders don't agree with every decision along the way. And if you have any doubts about the transparency of re.web, check out some of the unfiltered, critical feedback in the comments section.

Implemented properly, William and Mary's new website and web governance will embrace a similar level of transparency. Only then can we confront the often artificial distinction between message and messenger. Only then can we open up the website as the organic cross-section of campus life that it needs to become, an artifact as revealing about our decision-making processes as it is about the decisions themselves, and all the more enticing as a result.

Otherwise how will all the prospective applicants, potential donors, reputation influencers and desirable hires who think they don't care for William and Mary learn to appreciate how wrong they are?

posted by Henry Broaddus, dean of admission and guest blogger

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Response to Design Comments....

Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment about the three design concepts for the new W&M web site. We truly appreciate your feedback on the project!

Just a few things I'd like to clear up...

The images you see on each design are placeholders. On every concept a different image will load every time the page is loaded... so don't worry too much if Thomas Jefferson in sunglasses isn't your style.

Someone also commented that the designs don’t fit on an 800x600 screen without horizontal scrolling. These concepts are designed for visitors with 1024x768 resolutions or higher. This is considered the standard screen size in modern web design. We must use the latest web standards so our new site won't appear dated after only a year or two.

Lastly: in spite of W&M's record, we aren't picking a web design for the next 7-10 years; whichever design we choose will change. In the life of a typical web site, the design will receive a minor overhaul after about 2 years. The site will probably be completely redesigned 4 or 5 years from now.

Of course I truly hope everyone loves the new W&M web site. But if you don't, remember: this isn't a lifetime commitment-- it's the web, and it changes pretty fast.

Thank you again for your support.

Joel Pattison

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Weekly re.web Podcast: Is Dick Clark Still on TV?

Episode ten of the re.web podcast is called "It's got a good beat, but I don't think I can dance to it."
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

For the Greater Good

With your help, we can make the design for the W&M homepage "even greater." We've been systematically collecting feedback on the three options:
  • nearly 100 faculty, students and staff attended design presentations

  • more than 2,000 early decision and prospective students received a online survey about the designs

  • 400 W&M web editors received a personal email soliciting their thoughts

  • a campus announcement on myWM provided a link to the designs

  • . . . and 50 of you have already commented on the blog!

posted by Joel Pattison

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Thank you for the many, many comments about the three design concepts we unveiled on January 2. Your interest, thoughts, impressions, and love of the College are heartening to us.

Keep 'em comin'

posted by the re.web team

Friday, January 4, 2008

Syndicated, Incorporated

You've heard of Syndication.

Maybe you've heard of the "Weird Al" Yankovic parody whose title I borrowed for this post: Syndicated Inc. (if not, you can preview it in iTunes, of course).

But what does Syndication have to do with a CMS?
What is the significance of RSS?
And while we're digging into oddball CMS terminology, what does the rising and setting of the sun have to do with our web site?

See the discussion of our latest two feature highlights:
As always, we'd love to know what you think!

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Weekly re.web Podcast: Bette Davis Sets Expectations

Episode nine of the re.web podcast is called "Don't ask for the moon, we have the stars!"
Links to the re.web content within the W&M on iTunes U site:

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Drum Roll Please

The most loyal readers of this blog know that three possible designs for a new W&M Homepage are under consideration. We've been dying to show you the three options and today, we're doing just that.

Show me the three design options :)

posted by Susan Evans