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)

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