Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reading Papers, Grading Exams, and Reviewing Web Copy

Last week, I put out a call to a few on the W&M faculty. Not so perfectly timed with their simultaneous responsibility for reading papers and grading exams, I asked some professors to review and comment on the web copy we're preparing for launch.

We are lucky at W&M - our faculty gladly agree to participate in campus-wide projects like re.web. Already, I have a commitment from Chuck Bailey, Jen Mellor, Dan Cristol, Kate Slevin, Pam Hunt, Margaret Saha, Heather Macdonald, Laurie Koloski and Eric Jensen. Thanks all!

Larry Evans also spent a Sunday morning reading through a few sections of copy - course he's living and breathing re.web right along with me. Probably didn't think he had much of a choice . . .

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, April 25, 2008

copyWrite - W&M Impact

This week's copyWrite post is a first peek at a sample entry for a special interest feature (a SPIFF) that will be called W&M Impact. Written by Joe McClain, Alma mater of the national bird will be one of several stories and profiles showcasing the many ways W&M makes Williamsburg, Virginia, and the world a better place to live.

W&M Impact
Alma mater of the national bird

Seeing a bald eagle is a thrill that never wears thin and some of the best places on the East Coast to see our national bird are within a few minutes drive of William and Mary's campus.

You can occasionally see bald eagles from campus, but a surer bet is to go out to the Colonial Parkway between Jamestown and Yorktown. Eagles nest on Jamestown Island and they’re a common sight from the meadows and beaches along the James River.

It's poetic justice to have bald eagles so accessible to us, since two of our researchers have deserved a lot of the credit for the comeback story of the bald eagle. Mitchell Byrd and Bryan Watts of William & Mary's Center for Conservation Biology have documented the return of the bald eagle in the Chesapeake Bay region from near-zero numbers to the point where there were enough of them for the species to be removed from the federal endangered species list in summer of 2007.

Each year, the Center for Conservation Biology conducts census flights during nesting season over the shoreline of the Chesapeake and its major tributaries. Quite often, it's Byrd and/or Watts climbing into the cockpit of a Cessna 172 operated by a former fighter pilot known as Captain Fuzzzo—spelled with three z's. “The middle z,” he says, “is silent.”

The Endangered Species Act allowed for eagle nesting areas to be protected from development. The Center for Conservation Biology’s flights pinpointed the areas—even the individual trees—which needed to be protected. For their contribution to the eagle's comeback, Byrd and Watts received National Recovery Champion awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March, 2008.

The story of the eagle is not over. Removal of the birds from the endangered species list will open up lots of prime real estate that once only eagles could call home.

"About 95 percent of the eagle nests are within three kilometers of the main river channel. Eagles feed on fish and other aquatic prey, so they live in close proximity to the main shoreline,” Watts said. “Delisting presents a potential conflict because the shoreline property is the most valuable property for development."
posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, April 24, 2008

We're not testing you, we're testing the website.

Six high school juniors made their way to the former rubber factory that is home to mStoner in Chicago. Henry Broaddus and I watched intently as Patrick DiMichele or Sarah Weidaw asked each student to perform a series of tasks on a mockup of the new W&M site.

I wish the room had been big enough for all of you to be flies on the wall. It was fascinating, rewarding, and even a little nerve-wracking to observe the prospective college students surfing our site. Fortunately, a detailed report of the usability testing will be prepared by mStoner. Until then, here are a few of my anecdotal observations:
  • Almost without exception, students clicked on Admission to find the cost of tuition; and on Campus Life to find out about student clubs.

  • Almost all of the students commented about the beautiful photos of the W&M campus.

  • Many of the student testers suggested that we make the list of "majors and minors" easier to find.

  • Lots of students mentioned that they'd like to see more about athletics on the site.

  • A good number of the students indicated that they would enjoy reading student blogs.
By the way, we're not done yet . . . we're in the midst of testing 10 more juniors as I publish this post.

posted by Susan Evans

Usability Testing Part 2 of 2: The Product

Last week I blogged Tribe Voices: new software being developed by the IT Web Team.

Tribe Voices isn't part of re.web, but it is related. As you know, the College is purchasing a web Content Management System (CMS) to run websites for William & Mary's academic and administrative departments. The newly-designed W&M site will offer faculty/staff directory pages, but complete personal web pages will not be a part of the CMS. Tribe Voices, designed for faculty, staff and students, will create personal websites-- thus bridging the gap.

We wanted Tribe Voices to be easy to use, so we conducted usability testing on a model version of the software in early 2008. Our testing helped us design a logical user interface, and it gave us some ideas on the features people wanted.

When Tribe Voices is released on April 30, 2008 it will contain many of the things people requested. Among other features, it will:

- Include a "wizard" that helps first-time users create a website quickly

- Have a main menu that makes it easy to find everything you need

- Be completely web-based. You can create, edit and publish web pages without ever leaving your web browser. (No mapped drives!)

- Automatically build a website navigation menu (that you can edit if you wish)

- Have a simple blogging tool that allows comments and RSS

- Allow you to place Flickr badges, maps, movies and Facebook info on your site

Read more about Tribe Voices.

posted by Joel Pattison

Letter to a W&M Web Editor...

Dear W&M Web Editor,

Thank you for writing. I know you have a lot of questions about re.web, and what it means for your website.

We've created a timeline for moving departmental websites into the CMS and design suite. It will begin in June: mStoner and the re.web project team will transition top-level websites as we prepare for the launch of the College's new home page on July 31. After the July launch, departmental websites will gradually migrate to the new web content management system.

With guidance from the Web Advisory Committee, the W&M Web Team will manage site transition and provide central support for departments. Rather than simply moving existing sites into the CMS, our goal is to redevelop sites using a comprehensive approach. This means working on information architecture and examining content, copy, photography and multimedia.

A copy of the transition plan is now available (pdf).

Thank you for your interest and support of this project.

Joel Pattison
re.web project team

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Beauty AND Functionality

This face was bred for Beauty. I cannot smell a thing.
(Tiger, the Persian cat in the film Over the Hedge)

We are fortunate to be working with talented designers at mStoner, and equally skilled programmers at Global Image. Design is about beauty. Programming is about functionality. A talented designer considers usability and interaction during the design process. And a skilled programmer considers how best to preserve the look and feel of a design as he or she is programming.

But design and programming are very different disciplines. The programmer literally slices apart every element the designer created. Each component must individually be made functional.
Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
(Frank Lloyd Wright)

And this is where skilled project managers meet with the obsessive client representatives to hash out the idiosyncrasies of implementation. The culmination of this process is a document called the Functional Specification (or Functional Spec, for those conserving syllables).

Yesterday, the re.web Implementation Team had our first conference call with our project managers—Patrick diMichele and Michael Burks—regarding the Functional Spec. An exciting two hours later, and we have a first draft covering 5 of the 12 layouts to be built within the Cascade CMS as part of our implementation contract.

Getting back to the difference between designers and programmers, here's a real-life issue we are addressing:

William and Mary decided on Concept One for our new homepage. One of the elements of this design is the Rockwell font in the tactical navigation bar (starting with Information For), the primary navigation bar (starting with About) and other text on the page, such as Education Unplugged, Events, William and Mary News and Read More News/RSS.

This raises implementation questions. Since Rockwell is not a font available on all computers or browsers, should these elements all be created as graphics? Or should some of them be created as styled text with some magic web toolkit to make them display correctly. A few web programmers addressed this specific issue in 2004, creating just such a magic web toolkit dubbed sIFR.

One two-hour conference call down, and I can't yet give you the definitive answer on implementation of the Rockwell font. We will probably use creative combinations of graphics and sIFR on different layouts for different purposes.

We just thought some of you might like to know what's going on behind the glass, as we sit around the speaker-phone in our conference room, eyes glazing over spellbound.

posted by Andrew Bauserman

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

W&M Law School Chooses a Design

Just got the word today that the W&M Law School plans to use this design for their new website. Trotter Hardy and Jaime Welch-Donahue are planning for the relaunch of the Law site and expecting to include new, and revised, content.

Three special interest story banks will be surfaced on the new home page:
  • First and Foremost
    featuring “firsts” that communicate the Law School's quality, mission and culture
  • Try This
    focusing on students taking advantage of "out of classroom" opportunities — internships, clinical experiences, and study abroad
  • Citizen Lawyers
    telling stories about students and alumni using the law to make a difference
posted by Susan Evans

Looking for a few good students.

By the time students return in the fall, the current W&M Web Redesign Advisory Committee will have morphed into a permanent advisory group for We're looking for a few good students to serve on this College-wide committee.

If you are interested, apply at the Student Affairs website. The deadline for applications is 5:00PM on Monday, May 5.

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, April 21, 2008

It Just Makes Good Sense by Joel and Andrea

Timing is everything. A couple of weeks ago, I got a well-timed email message about design from Joel Pattison. His message was right on and parallel to a recent decision by the Mason School of Business. Joel wrote:
It seems it has been a "W&M tradition" to let a design grow very old and stale and then replace it with something that looks radically different. In my opinion, well executed web design is actually a series of natural evolutions that keep a site looking fresh -- each iteration of the design should build on the previous version and pave the way for future versions.

What Joel described in his gem of an email is actually underway at W&M's Mason School of Business. What makes sense to Joel makes sense to Andrea too. Working with mStoner and the re.web project team, Andrea Sardone, Mason's Director of Marketing Communications, is planning for the natural evolution of their site. In early 2009, our business school will open a new building and do what make sense for

posted by Susan Evans

R U Blogging?

Lots of colleges and universities are including blogs on their web sites and William and Mary would like to do the same.

If you are blogging now, or if you'd like to, tell us using the the R U Blogging? channel in myWM. You'll see it in the upper-left corner of the myWM Home tab.

posted by Tina Coleman

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's Windy, but a Great Place for Usability Testing

Henry Broaddus and I will spend April 23 and 24 in Chicago for usability testing. From 1:00PM to 8:00PM both days, we'll be at mStoner's main office as high schools juniors in the Chicago area arrive to test drive a mock up of the new design for the W&M web site.

Using the expertise of Patrick DiMichele, we have a draft usability testing protocol that will help us evaluate and confirm choices we've made about navigation and information architecture. Thanks to Steve Otto, we have some tasks that will be used to test terminology and organization for academic department web sites.

Thanks also to Joel Pattison for being the warm up act for this post! As Joel related in his description of the software development process for Tribe Voices, we want to do real-world testing of our new W&M web site while there is still time to make adjustments.

Here are just a few of the tasks that the testing moderator will prompt the Chicago high school students to do on a mock up of the new W&M site:
  • Find a list of majors / minors.
  • Find information about student clubs.
  • Visit the English Department site.
I'll blog while we're there. For the very interested, I offer a more complete version of our draft usability testing protocol (pdf).

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, April 18, 2008

Usability Testing Part 1 of 2: The Process

Have you ever wondered about the phrase "web usability testing?" In short, usability testing takes real-world users and asks them to perform tasks on a demo website. Their success (or lack thereof) is recorded and the website may be revised as a result.

Case in point: new software being developed by the IT Web Team called Tribe Voices. Tribe Voices isn't part of the re.web project, but it is related: the software will make it easy for students, faculty and staff to create personal websites. (More about this next week in Part 2.)

From the beginning, we knew two things:

1. Tribe Voices needed to make building websites simple.
2. People who create and maintain websites for a living aren't the best judge of web simplicity.

To solve this problem we conducted usability testing. Before a single line of code was written, we created a "model" version of Tribe Voices. It looked and acted like the software in every way except one: it didn't actually work.

Next, we sat down individually with half a dozen students, faculty and staff and asked them to perform some tasks in the model version of Tribe Voices. When the testers found something confusing or difficult we took careful notes. We revised, retested and in some cases, revised again.

Some of the things we asked our testers to do:

- Edit and save changes to a webpage
- Upload a picture and place it on a webpage
- Reorganize the site menu
- Customize the appearance of the website
- Rename the entire website

Our usability testing resulted in concrete changes to the software. Tribe Voices will be easier to use and understand because we took the time to conduct usability testing.

After testing was complete, our team began software development (which is still underway). Tribe Voices will be released in late April 2008-- more about that next week in part two of this post.

posted by Joel Pattison

One Year Ago Today . . .

. . . the W&M Web Redesign Advisory Committee met for the first time! This committed and talented group has offered direction to the campus-wide effort to redesign the W&M web site. If you have the opportunity, please thank these individuals for their great work.
  • Ginger Ambler, Student Affairs
  • Chuck Bailey, Geology
  • Andrew Bauserman, IT
  • Henry Broaddus, Admission
  • Courtney Carpenter, IT
  • Mike Connolly, University Relations
  • Patrick Donaldson, W&M Student
  • Susan Evans, IT
  • Renell Franklin, Development
  • Stewart Gamage, Public Affairs
  • John Kane, Alumni Association
  • Jack Martin, English
  • Jennifer Mellor, Economics
  • Sarah Rojas, W&M Student
  • John Wallace, Development
posted by the re.web project team

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Drop by and see us sometime.

Just took a sec to view the stats on the re.web project site. Our total number of hits for the period of January 1, 2008 through April 17, 2008 is 23,290! That averages out to 6,654 per month.

Thanks for noticing.

posted by Susan Evans

VIMS Design Concepts

VIMS has a tough selection to make. mStoner recently presented two beautiful design concepts for VIMS to choose from. Dave Malmquist and Barb Parcel have been busy showing these designs to members of the VIMS community and gathering feedback

While the VIMS designs are complimentary to the W&M design suite, the engaging color palette, curving lines and wonderful photography make it clear: VIMS' three part mission translates beautifully to the web.

posted by Joel Pattison

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Come back when you have a SPIFF !

Some of the most talented communication professionals at W&M showed up to talk about SPIFFs today. By the time the new W&M site launches, we'll have 15 - 20 entries in three special interest feature banks called W&M Impact, W&M Inquiry, and W&M Style.

I brought the M&Ms and Reese's Pieces, but Renell Franklin, Brian Whitson, Henry Broaddus, Steve Otto, Jamie Welch-Donahue, John Wallace, Melissa Pinard, Joe McClain, and Andrea Sardone went away with homework. We agreed to meet again in two weeks and share the SPIFFs we'll write in the interim.

Hmmm . . . I may even write one myself - anyone feel like suggesting a topic?

posted by Susan Evans

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"It's always funny until someone gets hurt."

I'm regularly reminded that the smallest design elements can draw a lot of attention. I love the small paper airplane that adorns the designs for the School of Education. Today, Andrew, Joel and I attended a meeting to review the two options under consideration. We were joined by Dean Ginny McLaughlin, Tom Ward, Dot Osborne, Jennifer Putnam, and Sue Thompson. We talked about photo choices, search boxes, testing driving the new CMS, and a a three pixel tall horizontal bar.

The Dean's Office has a plan for sharing the two design options and collecting feedback from the School's various stakeholders. We should be able to reveal the rest of the design (what goes with the paper airplane) by the end of the month.

posted by Susan Evans

Monday, April 14, 2008

First Meeting of the re.web Editorial Board

Today, the WEB met for the first time. WEB = web editorial board and its members are Henry Broaddus, Susan Evans, Jack Martin, Joe McClain, and Brian Whitson.

The Web Redesign Advisory Committee supported the creation of this temporary editorial board to oversee the review and publication of content needed for our July 31 launch. During our first meeting, we talked about exciting and excruciating detail like the serial comma (red, white, and blue OR red, white and blue). Who knew?

We are lucky to have many faculty, staff and students who are already reading through sections of new copy for the new web site. For instance, Ginger Ambler is coordinating the review of the Campus Life copy by many in Student Affairs. Copy about Graduate Admission is being carefully reviewed by Faye Shealy and others. W&M professors, along with Sue Peterson and Steve Otto (A&S Dean's Office), will soon review copy for the Academics section. The WEB will authorize and make final decisions about the content the world will see on July 31.

Want to know a bit more about the new web copy? See our collective CopyWrite posts.

Want to know what we decided about the serial comma? Stay tuned.

posted by Susan Evans

Official Student Bloggers at W&M - rewind

If you've looked at the new design for the W&M homepage, you may have noticed the Student Blogs in the bottom-right corner. Although an exciting and eagerly anticipated component of our new web presence, official W&M blogs written by students are actually a thing of the past.

How's that you say? Yep, three years ago the W&M Admission Office sponsored By Royal Decree as a communication tool for admitted students.

Planning for the 2008 version of W&M student blogs is underway - more soon. By the way, check out Real Life at Ball State.

posted by Susan Evans

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Project >> Process

Nearing the end of the re.web project, the W&M Web Redesign Advisory Committee is already talking about sustainability. Aptly put by our partners at mStoner in a W&M Web Strategy Report they prepared in November 2007:
The reinvented going live in 2008 is the tip of the iceberg, as the College transitions from the idea that its web presence is not a project but an ongoing process.

At our April 11, 2008 meeting, the web redesign advisory committee endorsed a new governance structure for the W&M web. Key to that new structure will be a permanent W&M Web Advisory Committee (note we cleverly renamed it by dropping the "redesign"). The post-re.web advisory committee will be co-chaired by Mike Connolly (University Relations) and Susan Evans (IT).

As we evolve the current web redesign advisory committee, we'll increase the membership to more broadly represent the campus. We talked specifically about adding representatives from Administration, Arts & Sciences, Athletics, Business, Education, Law and VIMS. Also, student members will be undergraduate and graduate students. The Faculty Assembly will soon offer the names of three faculty members to serve on the permanent committee.

We'll keep you posted.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, April 11, 2008

copyWrite - Historically Innovative

The copyWrite post for today is more copy from the About section - this web page will probably be titled "Cool Facts." Take a quick read through these; whether you're a seasoned member of the W&M community, or a graduating senior, you may find some nifty surprises here.

About W&M
Cool Facts

Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the second oldest educational institution in the U.S.

Four Presidents of the United States benefited from educational programs offered by the College: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler.

Although William & Mary retains its traditional title of "College," it is in reality a small university that offers advanced degrees in several fields.

The average SAT score of William & Mary's incoming first-year students is higher than that of any other Virginia institution.

Phi Beta Kappa, the premier academic honor society in America, was founded by College of William & Mary students in 1776.

William & Mary was the first college in the nation to institute an honor code of conduct for students.

William & Mary is one of only eight U.S. institutions of higher education designated a "Public Ivy." A Public Ivy is a state-assisted institution which offers a superior education at a cost far below that of Ivy League schools.

William & Mary's 12-to-1 student-faculty ratio is among the lowest of national public universities, a factor that helps strengthen the College's traditional commitment to teaching.

Founded in 1842, the William & Mary Society of the Alumni is the sixth oldest such group in the U.S.

Named for its presumed architect, the Sir Christopher Wren Building was completed in 1697 and provided classrooms, library, dining hall and a chapel for generations of William & Mary students. It is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the U.S., and classes are still taught within its walls.

A recent NCAA study shows that only William & Mary and Stanford University reported student-athlete SAT scores of at least 1,000 in eight categories based on gender and sport.

A succession of influential individuals—including President George Washington, President John Tyler, Chief Justice Warren Burger, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger have held the post of Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. In 2006, Sandra Day O'Connor, former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was installed as the College's 23rd Chancellor.

William & Mary has the highest number of per capita Peace Corp volunteers in 2008 who are alumni.

posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Am I Re-living Her Life?

I met Nancy Prater from Ball State University recently. I'm finding that her role in the relaunch of the BSU site is eerily like mine for the W&M site. At first, I thought the extent of the comparison was that, like me, Nancy benefited from the experts at mStoner. Now I know from reading an interview Nancy did with Journalism Hope that we think alike too.

My favorite part of Nancy's interview about the BSU relaunch is that when K. Paul Mallasch asked, "I like that you call it a re-launch rather than a re-design. Can you explain the difference between the two for our readers?" Nancy replied:
Sure. I think this is an important distinction, too. The big difference is that a redesign implies a simple face lift of how the site looks. However, ours was more than just a face lift - it really was an "extreme makeover." The site now has a fully-planned information architecture, which is just a fancy word for site outline or plan. This may seem like a minor thing, but Ball State's Web site was like a lot of Web sites of large universities - it grew organically over the years, with no real plan for growth. That has all changed.

Preach it, sister. This is precisely why we decided to call ours re.web.

posted by Susan Evans

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

SPIFF and why the extra F ?

If you've been following the re.web project, there's a good chance you've heard one of us use the SPIFF acronym. Calvin's alter ego has no relation to the W&M website. So what the bleep is a SPIFF?

Despite the extra F in the acronym, a SPIFF is a special interest feature. Although I've been asked, don't expect me to know the why on the extra F. This question stumps even mStoner's Editorial Creative Director, Mark Sheehy. Moving on.

The new W&M website will have a plethora (meant to distract you from the extra F) of SPIFFs including W&M Impact, W&M Inquiry, and W&M Style. The plan is to launch the new with 5 - 8 stories in each SPIFF bank. Consider:
  • W&M Impact - stories and profiles showcasing the many ways W&M makes Williamsburg, Virginia, and the world a better place to live
  • W&M Inquiry - a series of profiles showcasing research from all units within the College as well as other ways, contemporary and historic, in which W&M has put itself ahead of the curve
  • W&M Style - stories and profiles showing the quietly quirky, eagerly earnest--but always fun and entertaining--student life and traditions at W&M
Did you get an immediate idea for any of the three SPIFF banks when you read their descriptions? If so, please let us know.

posted by Susan Evans

Sunday, April 6, 2008

re.web Podcast (an encore performance) - We're Buying Cascade

Episode 16 of the re.web podcast is called "It's worth saying out loud."

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

posted by Susan Evans

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Heart of wm . edu

The subject of frequent discussion, email exchanges, and meetings is the design and structure of 35 academic departments that are the heart of the College. I am enjoying the conversations with Carl Strikwerda (Dean of the Faculty), Sue Peterson (Dean of Undergraduate Studies), and Steve Otto (A&S Director of Communications). With a collective goal of translating the very nature of Arts & Sciences to the web, this language on the current A&S home page is keeping us focused:
Arts & Sciences is the College's largest academic unit, with several dozen departments and interdisciplinary programs. Together they represent the historic and academic heart of the College of William and Mary, inheriting and building on a long tradition of excellence.

A design layout and information architecture for Arts & Sciences and 35 departments, ranging from English to Biology to International Relations is in the works. We are planning for a presentation to the Dean's Advisory Council, a meeting with the Faculty Affairs Committee, and open meetings for any member of the Arts & Sciences faculty.

posted by Susan Evans

Friday, April 4, 2008

copyWrite - Campus Life = Service

This week's copyWrite offers another writing snippet from the future Campus Life section of the W&M site. Many, many W&M students commit to community service during their time here. This draft copy offers insight about Service as a part of life on campus:
Someone’s got to save the world. Might as well be us.

A William & Mary education is a “scholarship of engagement.” Other people just complain about the devastating effects of third-world poverty, homelessness or global warming. We go out and do something about it.

Seventy-five percent of W&M students participate in service projects, contributing an astonishing 323,000 service hours each year through 90 regional partnerships and dozens of national and international service trips.

The Office of Community Engagement is the hub of service life on campus. OCE runs the college’s core youth mentoring and tutoring programs and helps professors integrate service learning into their curriculum. OCE also supports and trains individual students and campus organizations that want to start their own service projects.

Some of the most powerful and successful service projects at W&M are run by students. The annual Alan Bukzin Bone Marrow Drive is the largest college bone marrow drive in the country, collecting thousands of individual blood types to add to the national registry. And student-led organizations like Project Mexico, Schools for Schools and Destination China send W&M volunteers across the world.

Every year, 75 motivated students live and serve together as part of the Sharpe Community Scholars Program. “Sharpies” might take a special seminar on African American Vernacular English while participating in youth tutoring and mentoring programs, or study historic building preservation while lobbying to save a local landmark.

This scholarship of engagement affects and informs the lives of our graduates. W&M produces more Peace Corps volunteers than almost any other mid-sized college in the nation.

posted by Susan Evans

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dear VIMS,

Here's a message sent earlier this week to members of the VIMS community from Dean/Director John Wells.

Members of the VIMS community,

Over the last few months we have been laying the groundwork for a re-design of the VIMS web site. This effort is proceeding in collaboration with the "re.web" project at W&M. This letter is meant to bring you up-to-date on the current status and next steps in our redesign process.

Strategic Discovery
The College has engaged the web consulting firm mStoner to partner with VIMS on the redesign of our website. Last December, members of the mStoner team led a series of meetings at VIMS as part of the process of "strategic discovery." A synthesis of their findings is now available and your comments on this document are welcome via the reweb blog at

Usage Survey
One goal of our web redesign process is to create a site that maximizes usability and accessibility. To that end, we encourage you to complete the usage survey. We will use the results from this survey and a parallel survey of our external audiences to help identify the most useful navigation tools and content for the VIMS website. We also plan to conduct user testing of our website for additional guidance.

Web Redesign Advisory Committee (VIMS)
The purpose of this committee is to provide broad representation from within VIMS concerning the content and design of the new VIMS web site. The committee includes representatives from the VIMS faculty (Carl Hershner), student body (Lindsey Kraatz), and staff (Karen Reay); as well as from SMS (Iris Anderson), DRAS (Lyle Varnell), Communications (Dave Malmquist), Development (Anne Marshall), OSP (Jane Lopez), Library (Carol Coughlin), ITNS (Barb Parcell), CBNERR (Willy Reay), and Sea Grant (Lee Larkin).

Content Management System
One of the most exciting aspects of our collaboration with the W&M web redesign team is joint adoption of a "content management system." The CMS software will make it much easier and faster for members of the VIMS community to create, share, and update web content, while at the same time allowing the web editor and webmaster to ensure a consistent look and feel across the site. VIMS and W&M staff had an opportunity to evaluate potential CMS vendors in January, and W&M is now beginning negotiations to purchase Hannon Hill's Cascade Server. Notices concerning CMS implementation and training will follow.

Writing Assignments
As part of CMS implementation, we are in the process of meeting with faculty, staff, and students to allocate writing assignments for various components of the new VIMS website. A training session on writing for the web is also in the works, stay tuned for details.

If you'd like more information on the W&M Web Redesign Project (of which the VIMS web redesign is a part), visit the re.web project site for background and updates.

In short, the purpose of the redesign is to ensure that the VIMS web presence includes the following elements:
  • a user-centric focus, including provision of intranet capabilities to serve the internal VIMS community
  • a clear, persistent navigation scheme
  • a balanced approach to respond to our diverse audiences
  • a robust and effective search feature
  • an intuitive information architecture with a focus on usability and accessibility
  • a well-structured content model for marketing, news, and multimedia
We welcome your input as we move forward with this important project, and look forward to your comments.

posted by Susan Evans (for VIMS)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Up the Hill and on the Other Side of the Lake

Sometimes something just plain nice happens. Last week, I got an email message from the technology director at Walsingham Academy (located up the hill and on the other side of the lake from W&M). Walsingham has a great new web site and David Jenner sent an encouraging word to an IT colleague.
Ms. Evans,

I am the Technology Director at Walsingham Academy just up Jamestown Road from William and Mary. We recently re-worked our website last summer. I am sure our project was a much smaller undertaking than yours, but if there is anything I can do to provide some assistance, please let me know. I have come to know a few of your IT staff, and feel like our two schools are sisters.

I am sure you have put much thought into how you are going to get your new website built and off the ground. I am probably many moons late in mentioning anything (and maybe way out of line). We used to create our website. If I may say so, we found they were a great web company to work with. They have completed web sites for many universities, so they are used to working with large colleges. You might consider browsing their site a little. Perhaps you have already settled on a vendor or maybe you are building your sites in house. I just thought I would share this neighborly info with you.

Here is our new web site:

Best of luck with your project. I hope it is a huge success!
David Jenner
Technology Director
Walsingham Academy
Williamsburg, VA

posted by Susan Evans

Countdown to Launch


We've set a launch date. The re.web team is planning for an official go live date of July 31 (yes, I mean 2008) for the new There's nothing like a deadline to help with determining priorities.

Stating the July 31 launch date will also increase interest in our upcoming response to the most recent Guest Blogger's post. Holly Agati, Webmaster for Residence Life, asked some burning questions and we'll have responses soon! At a recent W&M Web Redesign Advisory Committee meeting, we endorsed some plans for providing centralized support as departments transition to the new CMS.

Watch this blog for more ...

posted by Susan Evans