Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

Has everyone noticed that the new W&M home page will have a student blog in the lower, right-hand corner? More than two years ago, Henry Broaddus noticed - that is, he noticed that W&M hadn't yet ventured into a world where student bloggers help tell the story of a campus.

The first time I read a blog that was established as a component of a university communication strategy was in January 2006 when Henry recommended the MIT Admission blogs. I have admired the candid, fun, and direct writing ever since.

Yesterday, Henry sent me a link to Snively's blog post about laptop options at MIT. Turns out, I can't be reminded too frequently about the effectiveness of the student voice. The MIT blogs offer a compelling insider's view.

In the next couple of weeks, we'll see a wireframe for the future W&M student blogs - one more step towards a dream come true for our deserving dean of admission.

posted by Susan Evans (inspired by HB)

Friday, March 28, 2008

VIMS Web Strategy Report

To members of the VIMS community:

As you may know, the College engaged mStoner to partner with VIMS on the redesign of the VIMS website. Last December, members of the mStoner team led a series of meetings at VIMS as part of their strategic discovery process.
A synthesis of their findings is now available (PDF) for your review.

We encourage you to use the re.web blog to comment and discuss this report.

posted by re.web project team

copyWrite - Connecting with Potential Donors

In copyWrite this week, I'm including copy that might work for the Giving section of the new College site. Giving, one of the eight main navigational links on all pages of the new site, will connect potential donors with information about W&M.

This first draft of Giving copy makes a compelling case:
Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.

William & Mary thrives because we’re blessed with one of the most generous support systems in the country. During the groundbreaking Campaign for William & Mary (2000-2007), you helped raise half a billion dollars for this remarkable institution. But our work isn’t over.

We want to continue to attract the top students in the nation and extend the reach of a W&M education to every deserving applicant. That means more need-based and merit-based scholarships.

We want to reward our hard-working faculty members who are both world-famous scholars and committed teachers. That means more endowed professorships, research grants and competitive salary packages.

We want to continually expand and improve our historic, beautiful campus. That means more state-of-the-art research, performance and athletic facilities.

We want what you want. A William & Mary that never falls short of its own inspiring vision.

posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dodged a Bullet?

Anyone catch this article on Serena Collage to go off into the sunset

Yikes! Serena Collage was a content management system on our short list just a few months ago! It appears to be a solid product and we heard positive reports from current higher ed customers, but I have to admit, this announcement does not come as a complete shock. The first warning flag popped up in my head when I tried to find Serena Collage on their web site. It was not mentioned on their home page and not listed in their fairly extensive Products menu. Rather, it was listed as it is today on the “All Products” page... Can you find it? Just s-c-r-o-l-l...d-o-w-n...t-o...t-h-e...b-o-t-t-o-m. There! Hmm, An outer province of an overextended empire? Maybe Serena Collage fell to the Visigoths?

I am not so far removed from the private sector to remember that “business is business” and restructuring of this sort, especially in the technical world, is commonplace. It's Starbucks in a suburban strip mall. (You're among friends here, you can admit that their coffee drinks are pretty darn good. Does anyone remember Orange Julius? What ever happened to that guy? Coffee and corndogs- Anyone doing that yet?) Dementia aside, I feel sorry for Serena customers who will scramble over the next few months to revisit their content management strategy. But they will prevail. Great thing about working in Higher Education, it is just this sort of challenge and adversity that provides the spark needed by those waiting for an opportunity. And besides who is to say Serena Collage will not be bought by one of the big fish who'll make it even better?

Should we worry that the same thing could happen to Cascade Server? I suppose anything is possible, but as if this mere thought “put it to the universe”* (maybe with a little help from Google Alerts) check out the quick response from Hannon Hill in a March 18th Press release:

Hannon Hill Reaffirms Commitment to Clients of Higher Education Industry - Redefining 'Best Practices' for CMS Vendors

We have talented people here at W&M and no doubt we would have survived using a potential end of life product. But, are we comforted knowing the long-term commitment Hannon Hill continues to demonstrate to Cascade Server and Higher Education customers? Absolutely!!! I think....

Posted by Mark Windley

* A phrase common in my house. When I dare to have a negative thought I am scolded be my wife, “Don't put it to the universe!” This is an increasingly difficult situation for an aging pessimist such as myself. That being said, I expect a lot of traffic on the ride home for writing this.. or maybe a flat tire...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

GUEST BLOGGER: Letter from a W&M Web Editor...

Dear re.web team,

I am beginning to make plans for the summer and I wanted to get a bit of information about the re.web project and its timelines. I typically review my site in the summer and want to plan effectively; knowing how the re.web project will affect me would be helpful. I have a few burning questions:

Is there a timeline for the campus to migrate to the new look and content management system (CMS)? If so, when will I be asked to do this?

Also, as we migrate, it seems there should be a change in the tone or feel of the content. Is this something everyone will need to do on their own, or will there be some assistance?

Okay, you can you tell I am excited and a bit anxious about moving to the new format. As a web editor, I am curious about what all this means for me. Any insight would be great.

-Holly Agati
Webmaster for Residence Life

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gracias College Web Guy

College Web Guy's right. What he knows is that it all starts with having something to say. What he doesn't know is that I've been struggling lately. No worse, discouraged (anyone get that movie reference?)

For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to plan for what seems a monumental task - having great copy ready for launch. Our partners at mStoner are writing some fabulous copy but W&M web writers will have to produce some too. College Web Guy, without realizing it, your words have encouraged me. Thanks!

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, March 21, 2008

copyWrite - Thousands will click here.

In this weekly installment of copyWrite, we'll share some copy that might be like the narrative that ends up on the Admission section of the new web site. Admission will be one of the eight main navigational links on all pages of the new site.

Breeze through this draft web copy created as a first draft for the Undergraduate Admission section of the new
Undergraduate Admission
Don’t let our looks fool you. We have big brains under all our beauty.

William & Mary consistently attracts the most exceptionally talented high school seniors from Virginia and across the world. Last year, nearly 11,000 applicants fought for 1,350 spots in William & Mary’s class of 2011. Take a look at the numbers for this year’s freshmen:

* 79% graduated in top 10% of their class
* the middle 50th percentile on SAT was 1270-1430
* the class includes 77 high school valedictorians and 33 salutatorians

But what really sets W&M students apart is a passion for learning. There are no one-dimensional eggheads around here. (Though there are enough smart alecs for us to anticipate some crack about eggs being three dimensional.) Chemistry majors write poetry for the literary magazine, business majors volunteer in soup kitchens, and football players star in Shakespeare. It’s all part of the proud intellectual culture at W&M, extending from the classroom to the dorm room and everywhere in between.

Yes, we work hard. But that’s because we’re working on things that we love. Our professors—hands down the most committed and engaged in the country—inspire us to go one step further, to challenge conventional wisdom and uncover new truths.

posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Look for Law

Members of the W&M Law School got a first look at design concepts for their new web site yesterday. Eight members of the Law School gathered in the North West Faculty Room for a 10AM conference call with mStoner.

Those in attendance included Lynda Butler, Interim Dean; Faye Shealy, Associate Dean of Admission; Jamie Welch-Donahue, Director of Communications; and Trotter Hardy, Associate Dean of Technology. Professor Eric Kades, Liz Jackson, Melody Nichols, and Ramona Sein rounded out the group.

After carefully contemplating the College's new web design they quickly came to a consensus about the look and feel of their own website. Watch the re.web homepage for a preview!

posted by Joel Pattison

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Note to Self: Measure Results

Michael Stoner joked that 11 or so years ago when he judged the national CASE awards for websites for the first time, he had to,
unplug the fax machine to dial in on a computer to view the one entry in the website category.

Over the past two days, we spent hours examining 33 institutional website submissions and 99 special purpose site entries. No surprise that, since 1996, the overall quality and impact of higher education websites is certainly much higher. Colleges and universities now get it - a school's website is the major communication asset.

Most interesting to me was the often missing description of outcomes on most of the submissions. The ability to measure results after the launch of a comprehensive, and often expense, web design/development project still eludes university web professionals. Very few entry forms included comprehensive and specific data on outcomes. Agenda item for re.web project team next week: what data do we need to capture pre-launch for reporting results a year from now?

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, March 17, 2008

Next Stop, Philadelphia

I write en route to Princeton; by way of Richmond, Washington, D.C. and Wilmington, Delaware. Amtrak is the way to go - power at every seat and the "quiet car" is for introverts and business travelers who want uninterrupted time to concentrate.

I'm thinking about tomorrow and Wednesday when, on the campus of Princeton University, I'll be one of 15 judges for the web site category of the CASE Circle of Excellence Awards.

So what makes a good web site? I did a quick search of the CASE site and found the 2007 Judges Report for the Web Site category. I found this section to be good preparation:
What makes an award-winning institutional Web site? We asked ourselves that question before we began viewing the sites. Here are some important elements:
  • a sound strategy
  • sound information architecture, navigability and usability and good search
  • content developed for the site and deployed effectively across the site
  • effective management
  • distinctive or appropriate design—the look and feel of the site
  • technology used on the site and adherence to standards
  • evaluation plan—and results
  • strong institutional identity that is consistent deep into the site
By the way . . . the Amtrak website, though not a CASE entry, satisfied many of the elements above and oriented me for my first train ride in 27 years.

posted by Susan Evans

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How's it looking?

For the past couple of weeks, we've been meeting with University Relations to talk about the News & Events section of the new W&M web site. Brian Whitson, Joe McClain, Cindy Baker, and Mike Connolly are reviewing the details, discussing the layout, and perfecting the look. Here's the prototype for a dazzling News & Events site.

mStoner desingers are creating an exceptional suite of page layouts that we'll use when we launch in late July (gulp!). We've featured some of these page layouts in earlier blog entries - Undergraduate Admission: now and later and But what will my department's site look like?

Stay tuned for a look at the designs for Arts and Sciences, Law, Education, and VIMS.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, March 14, 2008

copyWrite - What's it all About?

Ready to read about About? In this weekly installment of copyWrite, we'll offer up some of the copy drafted for the About section of the new web site. "About" will be one of the eight main navigational links on all pages of the new site.

The current About section of provides this summary:
Making the Connection

America's second-oldest college is also the best small public university in the nation. To find out more about William and Mary's heritage, reputation and notable achievements, explore the links below.

Now take a look at a couple of paragraphs intended for the new About section - drafts, of course:
Where professors and students are partners in discovery.

William & Mary attracts the type of student that’s itching to explore a topic beyond the textbook. We’ve found that W&M undergrads are ready—from day one—to work closely with our experienced faculty on research projects of real academic consequence.

In an intellectual environment as fertile as W&M, a good research idea can come from anywhere: professor, graduate student, undergrad or member of the community. The result is an intellectual partnership where each member of the team brings something important to the table, whether it’s the youthful idealism of the undergrad or the sharp analytical eye of the professor.

Let’s take a look at some of the incredible student-faculty collaborations from 2007-2008:

Two W&M undergrads, with the help of mentors in the English and Theater departments, wrote plays that were accepted and performed at the New York International Fringe Festival.

Freshmen members of the Sharpe Community Scholars Program took a seminar on historic building preservation in which they researched and wrote a full proposal for a Richmond building’s nomination as a National Historic Landmark.

A geology professor helped one of his undergrads fulfill a lifelong dream of solving the mystery of a sunken submarine. Using a cutting-edge lab at the nearby Applied Research Center, the students tested samples to send back to researchers in Charleston.

A professor enlisted undergraduate and graduate research assistants to help conduct a study on how the brain processes optical illusions. When the results of their research appeared in the scholarly journal Psychological Science, the students were listed as co-authors.

In my view, the storytelling in the new About section will be make our web site more personal and more engaging.

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Commence Negotiations

Do we have a CMS yet?

We're getting there! Read on...

The sound of Silence

Did you notice re.web has been silent on the issue of CMS selection since posting "Have we met?" shortly after the January 24 demonstrations of Cascade and RedDot by our friends at Global Image.

If you haven't already, you might want to read that post. In it we summarize feedback from those of you who attended; and in the 14 associated comments, we explain several of the differences in the way Cascade and RedDot implement specific key features.

Digging Deeper

We already had a demo. What else do we want to know?

Everything! We have been reviewing both Cascade and RedDot extensively, researching numerous questions, reading through knowledge base articles and user forum posts, and talking to CMS administrators at universities using each product.

I can't summarize every question we've thought up. But fortunately, our colleagues at Virginia Tech published an outstanding RFP as part of their Web CMS selection last year. You can get a sense of the level of detail of our questions by looking over sections A-L. (Thanks VT!)
Realizing that this RFP hit the streets months before the tragedy last April, and the subsequent demands on Web communication at VT, the questions in the RFP are prescient—and I'm sure the folks who wrote it were commended as the CMS negotiations progressed into April and May.
So, do we have a CMS yet?

As of today, we are opening negotiations with Hannon Hill for the purchase of the Cascade Server Web CMS.

As Susan said earlier: "Good choices are made from good options"—and both Cascade and RedDot are strong contenders in the Web CMS marketplace.

Here are a few points of interest regarding Cascade:

Cascade is currently in use at universities such as Duke, Cornell, Brandeis, and even down the road at the University of Richmond.

Cascade is on a Virginia Association of State Colleges and University Purchasing Professionals (VASCUPP) contract, which means another participating Virginia university awarded a contract based on an RFP from which all VASCUPP schools may buy. We will now attempt to customize a package of software, support, and training to meet our specific needs.

The re.web team believes that Cascade is a good fit for William and Mary. We particularly like the Asset Factories.

Asset Factories allow our implementation team to define types of content such as standard pages, News, Events, or Press Releases which will allow the user to fill in a few fields and have the CMS create the page in the correct location, link it to the appropriate template, and move it into the correct workflow. Asset Factories can also be associated with images and other types of files and media to simplify content creation.

If you click through above, you can also check out the WYSIWYG Editor, Inline Spell Checker, Image Editor, and many other features (some of which are for us programmer types). The Advanced section of the Knowledge Base gives you a hint of the power behind the scenes in Cascade, via XML/XSLT, Web Services (included SOAP/WSDL APIs), plug-ins, and the Cascade Advanced Server Toolkit (CAST).

Another thing we really like: It's all there for anyone to see— video demos, the Cascade Server Users' Forum, the Knowledge Base, and much more.

As one of my daughter's favorite characters would say . . .

Plus also, if you look at the Hannon Hill Products page you will notice that Cascade isn't competing for attention from Hannon Hill. Nor is it complicated to figure out which modules or add-ons we should buy—they are all included in the base product.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

re.web on the Arts and Sciences Agenda

I had the pleasure of making a presentation at the Arts and Sciences Faculty Meeting this afternoon. My comments about re.web fell into one of three categories: background, progress, and next steps. Despite the Periodic Table of Elements on the wall in Millington 150 (those always bring back bad memories), I enjoyed the opportunity and the Q&A that followed.

March 11, 2008 Arts and Sciences Faculty Meeting
download the PowerPoint Presentation
download the handout

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, March 10, 2008

W&M on the CASE

A week from today, I'll be traveling to Princeton, New Jersey to serve as a judge for one of the forty categories of CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. CASE is the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and annually, their Circle of Excellence Awards recognize "a wide range of innovative and effective programs and projects."

As you might expect, I'll be judging for the Web Sites category and will be joined by 14 other web communication professionals from across the country. What have been described as "two very full days of judging" will be spent on the campus of Princeton University.

More about the evaluation procedure, the websites we review, and the train ride to Princeton Junction next week.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, March 7, 2008

copyWrite - a new weekly feature of this blog

copyWrite is a new weekly feature of the re.web blog. Each Friday, we'll show you a snippet (is that a technical term?) of some of the web copy that we're producing and perfecting for the new W&M web site.

Although a picture's worth a thousand words, we still need some - words that is. As you know, eight links will appear on the main navigation for the new One of the eight links will bring you to a section called Campus Life.

To provide a frame of reference here's the copy from the current W&M Campus Life page:
Campus Life
Making the Connection

America's second-oldest college is also the best small public university in the nation. To find out more about William and Mary's heritage, reputation and notable achievements, explore the links below.

Now, here are a couple of paragraphs aimed for the new Campus Life section - in draft format, of course! We'll edit, edit again, and then again between now and late summer. Here goes:
Campus Life - Draft Copy
Being busy just got a lot more fun

If William & Mary students look busy, that’s because we are. Busy making lifelong friends. Busy making exciting music and theater. Busy making a difference in the world. With more than 400 campus clubs and organizations to choose from, staying active and engaged at W&M isn’t an afterthought; it’s a way of life.

Forgive us if we get a little intense about our interests. We were born that way. That’s why we have well over a hundred special interest clubs inspired by political engagement, religious faith, ethnic and cultural pride, environmental protection, and endless geekery from quiz bowl to ping pong to heavy metal.

posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Parents Get a Gateway Too

Building on Joel's earlier post about a page called "Info for Current Students", we're also figuring out what links parents of William and Mary students might find useful. When the new W&M site goes live, we'll have a gateway page for them too.

Here's a draft of what might be included on the parents' gateway. What do you think, do we have some good stuff here? Have we missed anything? Let us know.

posted by Susan Evans

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Better Bookmark?

Joe McClain told me about a web site that offers an alphabetical index of American Universities. This Index of American Universities is sponsored by the University of Florida.

Back in early February, we shared the link to a similar site on this blog. That site is organized by state. See U.S. Higher Education Web Sites -

posted by Susan Evans

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Current Students Gateway

Anyone who has studied the new W&M web design probably noticed the "Information For" button in the top left-hand corner. When a web visitor clicks on this button they will be presented with a series of links (as in, "Information for... Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Friends & Neighbors, Parents, Alumni").

So if a freshman visits the homepage and clicks on "Information for Current Students," what will he see? In truth, we want our visitors to answer this question as much as possible. Review the proposed list of links, but if you have suggestions, we would love to hear them.

posted by Joel Pattison