Cosmetic changes happen on a website throughout its lifetime. Some major, others so small they are sometimes unnoticeable. You may notice when you created a bulleted or numbered list using the LiveWhale tools, the indent has shifted a little to the right. This helps differentiate from the preceding paragraph content to let the user know that this is, indeed, a list.
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Bulleted and Numbered List change
Improving the Righthand Menus
We have been testing out several improvements to the Lewis & Clark righthand menu system. For instance:
- A “arrow” icon showing that a menu item will be taking you out of the current area
- A triangle icon showing that a menu item has sublinks. This triangle turns 90 degrees when you open the page, and then back when you leave.
You can see the tests live on the following sites:
Feedback is welcome, as always.
When was the last time you printed out a page on the website and ended up with a lot of content you didn’t need (like navigation links and footers)? Well, now we’ve rolled out a stylesheet that prints out the essential content. Of course, this doesn’t include links to files like PDFs or Microsoft documents.
Word of warning: depending on your browser, the results may not be what you expect. We’re still in testing mode but your feedback is appreciated.
Hey, LiveWhale users. This is a reminder that an upgrade to LiveWhale happened last night. What does this mean for you? You may see some minor changes but if something isn’t working – especially if it impedes your process – please let us know as soon as possible. The developers at White Whale will be on hand, ready to receive any bug reports. And, if you have a moment, come to our Office Hours where we can answer your questions about this particular upgrade.
What the heck is IDATI and why should I care?
Simply put, IDATI is Integrated Design and Technical Improvements and will greatly improve our public website over a six-month-plus period. In short, IDATI is a major overhaul of the underpinnings of the website (the technical aspects) united with significant changes to the navigation and design of the site.
This effort grew out of our needs to refactor much of the custom code we wrote as part of the full redesign of the site in summer 2009 to not only take advantage of many improvements in our LiveWhale content management system since that time, but also the advances in the at large web development community.
Further, as we are now nearly four years from the strategy phase of the redesign, it’s time to take another hard look at our content mix and navigational choices. The world has changed and we have changed too.
Websites require constant care — they must always change to stay relevant and be effective.
In some respects, this announcement is the culmination of this process already underway. We began last summer/fall with the new home page and undergraduate admissions home page. In the late fall, we commissioned a review of our navigation and content by an independent expert (Tonya Moyle, WhiteWhale Web Services).
Below, I outline the major segments of IDATI, as well as some milestones for starting projects as we know them today. I must emphasize that what I have highlighted below is less a fixed project with an accompanying Gantt chart of milestones and deadlines than a roadmap to our web future and the tasks that we must tackle to get there.
For instance, not all the things we know we must do are yet solved or known, such as the new navigation and how it might change the base design of the website. But, we know we must take this path and we know where it starts, and we know the key elements. It’s time to change.
For the overall project, I’ve broken the tasks collected from our own project tracking software and from the work we did in the fall culminating with Tonya’s report and assembled them into five segments, for which I’ve listed some major elements below. They are organized from design to function.
Design and User Experience
Build new page designs that are both desktop and mobile responsive (including a print stylesheet) all atop a new framework which will extend the ability to do more interactive and stylized design to the high-end LiveWhale users. Build new home pages for the Graduate School and Law School in conjunction with key admissions stakeholders; rebuild the Institutional one in the new framework. Build several new templates that facilitate a show-over-tell content plan akin to the undergraduate admissions home page. Redesign all templates to respond to navigation changes noted below.
Navigation and Content
Apply the recommendations from Tonya and remove the “green” navigation, reorganizing the school navigations to accommodate incoming additions and push them toward a more outward focused, thematic landing page model. Add new content areas for specific deficiencies (e.g. more outcomes) and reorient some content areas (e.g. undergraduate parents). Rethink all three schools’ current students or student life sections to be internally useful but externally interesting. Use shared content to handle distribution of key elements like maps, visiting campus, Portland content and the like.
Take all the issues noted on all the various templates (home page, page, news, events, etc.) and rebuild them across the entire site. This involves creating a tool to allow us to re-wrap the page content with a new template which will centralize management of the template on a permanent basis. We will simultaneously eliminate several of the LiveWhale external tools we’ve written for a growing use of LiveWhale tools that have become available in the last two years.
Create or upgrade tools and practices for delivering content to site visitors in an ever-faster manner that also introduce significant speed improvements for mobile or low-bandwidth users across the globe. Like templating, some of these will reflect a greater use of newer LiveWhale features as well as improved technologies from the last two years. Other improvements will reduce demands on new media by improving the ease of page creation and titling.
Take select ideas that would have overall benefit to LiveWhale users in general and feed them to WhiteWhale for consideration as future features. Investigate funding options to get these elements built sooner as custom elements. Possible features include auto-built site maps, social media image import, among others.
The segments above are clearly interdependent. Given this, staffing considerations, knowledge known at present, time to vet navigation and design changes and finally, that we’re about to enter yield season for two of our three schools (the other always being in yield season), we are going to begin with the technical side of the project and move toward the design and content side.
Our technical improvements will have a minimal impact on the overall look-and-feel of the website to most visitors, keeping a stasis for the design, content and navigations work proceeding alongside. Further, we’ll have the tools in place to effect a far more rapid change when ready to implement the design, content and navigation changes once ready. As you might expect, the initial months (phases) are more fleshed out at present with the more distant phases less so.
I’ve listed primary actors where known and available below; the ContentCM (content creator/manager) actor is a stand in for one or more of: Morgan, Emily, Joe and Deanna, depending on the project.
- Template migration tool (Templating, Nick)
- QR Code service (Infrastructure, Nick)
- Replace site.inc with LiveWhale Module/PHP includes (Templating, David)
- Build basic frame, average home page, and inside page templates in new framework (Design, Lawrence)
- Begin graduate and law home page planning (Design/Content, David, Joe, Hanna, Martha, Shannon)
- Inquire about LiveWhale improvements with WhiteWhale (LiveWhale, David/Morgan)
- Group creation helper (Templating, Nick)
- Complete Institutional home page in new framework (Design, Lawrence)
- Begin graduate and law navigation (Design/Content, David+, Hanna, Martha)
- Draft graduate and law home pages (Design, Lawrence/David, Hanna, Martha)
- New content and photography for home pages completed (weather permitting, ContentCM, Hanna, Martha)
- Page creation helper built (Nick, Infrastructure)
- LiveWhale/SSO integration (Nick, Infrastructure)
- Content development in process for refinement of existing landing pages (Content, ContentCM)
- Graduate and law navigation accepted (Design/Content, David+, Hanna, Martha)
- New graduate and law pages launched (Design, David)
- New content created, new landing pages launched as available (Content, ContentCM)
- Graduate and law navigation built, some elements launched as content becomes available (Design/Content, David+)
- Transition to long-term work of assisting departments/programs with their web content in the new formats as staff return to campus (Content, Emily/Morgan)
I do expect dates to shift as work is completed. Watch for updates on IDATI on this blog, or inquire about our new media status update emails by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And, since this is a lot to digest, but sure to ask questions either via email, or even better, in a comment so that others can benefit as well.
Updating LiveWhale this month (to version 1.4.3)
Later this month we at New Media (that’s me, David, and Nick) will be working with White Whale to upgrade our LiveWhale content management system to the latest version (1.4.3). If you would like to read the release notes, they are here: http://livewhale.com/releases/1.4.3.php
However, let me take a moment to point out a few of the more important changes.
(1) Event categories. Some events in LiveWhale currently (in 1.4.2) use tags like “student event” or “faculty event.” This will now move out of tags into a new righthand checkbox called categories to simplify event management.
(2) Facebook widget. Similar to the Twitter widgets that some of our sites use, Facebook widgets can call status updates from Facebook Pages into our site (with the help of a special API key).
(3) Double-click on images to edit them. When editing a page, news story, etc., you can now resize existing images in WYSIWYG [what-you-see-is-what-you-get] regions without having to delete and re-add them. Just double-click on an image and an improved editing window will appear.
(4) Adding links is easier. The window that appears when you click on the “chainlink” icon in the editing toolbar to make or edit a link is easier to use with new options (for example, to link within our site or to external pages).
(5) No more “no events found.” Events widgets that return zero events will no longer say “no events.” Instead they will be blank, like news widgets with zero results.
(6) Drag-and-drop to add images in Image Library. It is easier to add images (even in bulk) to your library with a new “drag to add” interface.
(7) Navigation improvements. When the currently viewed page does not exist in the righthand nav menu, the nav now expands and highlights to the nearest parent of the current page, if there is one.
Digital Screens Update
While projects like the home page and navigations refresh, the search engine prototype ui and the alumni connectivity project have kept me busy of late, I have found a few minutes to give the digital screens another quick update.
Admittedly, one of the updates was absolutely necessary as the end of Daylight Savings Time tweaked the display of some of the events to be an hour off. So while I was in there doing an immediate quick fix to deal with that, I took a few hours to give the screens code some additional upgrades. The short list follows.
Daylight Savings Time (bug fix)
The screens should now properly display events regardless of DST.
Fewer Duplicate Events (new)
You should now see fewer duplicate copies of the same event on the screen. LiveWhale’s sharing system is wonderful for the user but does require some additional thought when tapping into it with external applications since there can be multiple versions of the “same” content available at any one time.
The screens now match events based on time, place and a fuzzy-match on title similarity. This means that the LiveWhale event that you personally created may not be on the screens (it will be on your website as always), but that at least one matching event will. (The system is designed to not be overzealous in matching — displaying too many of the same event is better than missing one.)
Investigating User Interaction
Today, we hooked up a Kinect to the test screen in our office and after installing some additional open source code, experimented with how a Kinect-controlled user interface might be like. (Check out the images of Morgan and I using it.) Truth be told, it was a little rough and prone to mistaken choices, even when you know its gestures. However, it does have some benefits over our alternative choice, control by smart phone so we’ll take a closer look at the underlying code.
Have an idea about the screens? Be sure to tell us.
Righthand Navigation Menus Now Editable in LiveWhale
After extensive and successful testing, we are happy to announce that all programs, offices, and departments now have righthand navigation menus that can be edited within LiveWhale. Previously, only members of New Media like myself could edit the menus for you, and it had to be done directly on the server. This is a much improved system, and one that gives you greater control over your own site content, as anyone authorized to edit pages within your LiveWhale group can edit navigations too.
So how do you access the navigations to edit them? Login to LiveWhale, go to the Manage Content area, click on the Pages tab, then the Your Pages sub-tab.
(The direct link is https://www.lclark.edu/livewhale/?pages or https://college.lclark.edu/livewhale/?pages or https://law.lclark.edu/livewhale/?pages or https://graduate.lclark.edu/livewhale/?pages depending on where your group is located within the institution.)
Once there, you can easily add, rename, reorder or remove links from your navigation.
More information may be found here: http://www.lclark.edu/live/news/11645-an-overview-of-navigations
Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at email@example.com
A faster page means a better user experience, so as part of our ongoing improvements to the site and to remove a potential server issue (perhaps related to our recent server issues), I’ve just written some code to improve select caching of remote content such as the search dropdown, the Administration section and many of the “Contact Us” sections that appear directly beneath each site’s navigation and faculty information that is auto-filled on faculty pages.
The search dropdown was no slouch, but cached results means that subsequent requests for the same term(s) are at least ten, sometimes twenty times faster (around 60ms to between 2-5ms).
Administration / Contact Us
We’ve been switching many of the Contact Us sections to use the directory (our authoritative resource of organizational information) so that it matches the contact information in Administration. Prior to today, when LiveWhale generates each page (every five minutes) the contact information was requested from the directory in real-time and would often take as much as a second to produce. Subsequent requests now only take 2-5ms. (It is refreshed daily.)
When you load a faculty member’s page, a good portion of the faculty information (name, title, office location, phone, email, etc.) that appears on faculty pages is requested in real-time from the search engine (where we store the people data we collect daily from Colleague). Now, that only occurs on the first visit to the page — all subsequent visits that day are cached. This means that the resulting in a page that loads an average of five times faster.
LiveWhale 1.4.2 upgrade complete
Last week, as you may have read, we upgraded to the latest version of our LiveWhale content management system, which powers the vast majority of our website. Overall, things went swimmingly, though a few bugs always pop up with upgrading. For instance, we have an issue with checkboxes and radio buttons in new LiveWhale forms. You can be confident, however, that all of these bugs are being squashed one by one.
The easiest way to keep track of the efforts is via our twitter feed: https://twitter.com/#!/lcsystemstatus where we post new issues (and solutions) as we come across them. Thanks for your patience as we finalize this exciting upgrade.
And again, find the announcement about LiveWhale 1.4.2 from White Whale (the makers of LiveWhale) here: http://www.livewhale.com/releases/1.4.2.php
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