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 email@example.com. 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.