Tomorrow morning we will be launching the redesigned www.anselm.edu. We do so with a tremendous sense of pride and with gratitude to many, but with an equal dose of trepidation about what we know will be some initial points of confusion.
As we launch, we know there are a several bugs still present, some areas where load time will be slower than optimal and where some graphics and content are still in development. The Website is, and will remain, a work in progress. It’s a publication that will never be finished.
You will see that some things have moved. If a link had been on the homepage for 10 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will still be there. Please know that no decisions were made without the careful involvement from the broadest possible number of internal and external constituents. In all cases, decisions were made according to best practices in online publishing.
People will have immediate questions such as, “Where do I find this page?” As these questions arise, we will be in triage mode, doing the best we can to respond in as timely a fashion as possible. Please be patient. The site’s search engine will not be available immediately as indexing needs to occur post launch. We’ll need your patience on that front as well.
There will be a lag time between launch and on campus training for site editors and authors. This week, you will receive dates and times for training sessions in the new content management system. We will also be instituting a new service for faculty and staff where we will have regular Web workshops (CMS labs) for those who seek to expand their skills in writing for the Web or simply to discuss a unique challenge or a new idea.
If you were interviewed for our Faces section of the Website and do not see that profile, don’t worry – it's coming. We are juggling multiple assignments, ranging from the technical to the creative.
As noted in a previous e-mail, people should be prepared for the fact that the site is organized to correspond with best practice in user experience of our lead audience, which is prospective students. It is not organized around administrative functions at the college.
Finally, please know that a tremendous effort has been devoted to laying the foundation, reviewing technology, creating road maps for navigation, and gathering literally thousands of pieces of information and photos. Much of the technical work is and will remain invisible to the site visitor, but will be absolutely critical to our ability to build the site out in new directions.
To every person who participated in this process, from RFP review committee and CMS selection committee to those who agreed to our requests to be interviewed and photographed and those students who spent their winter breaks migrating thousands of pages of information, you all have our gratitude. Thanks especially to the senior leadership team for supporting this endeavor. The college’s lead publication will help all of us to put a fresh face on an enduring legacy.
The following e-mail was sent to all Saint Anselm College faculty and staff on April 26, 2010.
If you are like most people, you’d rather do almost anything than read a long e-mail with more information about the new Web site. We know that, but even so, we’re asking you to please read this one. It deals with important changes in how the content on the new Web site is organized and some tweaks in the publishing process. Your willingness to read these updates as we send them will minimize some confusion when we take the new site live, a time when we will be less able to answer your immediate questions or concerns.
Change in How Content is Organized on the New Web Site
One thing we heard repeatedly from our Web firm as well as other firms that had bid on our redesign project, is how the college’s current Web site architecture (site navigation) was very compartmentalized in its organization, meaning that it was organized according to how the college is set up rather than how the average visitor seeks information while navigating the site. For example, in the current site, visitors must visit a particular administrative or academic department to get information and must have some level of knowledge about what that department does in order to know where to go. While this works relatively well for our own faculty and staff, it is quite confusing to prospective students and their families who are less well versed in the vernacular of higher education.
The new Web site’s architecture (how content is organized or housed) has changed and will be driven by best practices and proven strategies in how users interface with our site. In most instances, the content is the same, but it may be located in a different place or in multiple places when the information is of interest to more than one segment of our audience. The one exception to this is academic departments, which will continue to be organized as they are on the current site, but can be found with fewer clicks. A new header of “majors,” which is the word choice used by prospective students, is given more prominence in the new site.
Today we had two representatives on campus from the Boston Office of the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to present information on Web accessibility. The presentation was part of the OCR's outreach to colleges and universities in New England in an effort to educate schools on the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and to provide assessment resources for gauging compliance.
Included below are links to the handouts that were provided at today's presentation as well s links to additional online resources, assessment tools, and accessibility validators. I've also created a new category of links in the right column of this page, which now lists many of these accessibility resources. Please note that I provide resources primarily on Section 508. Section 504 applies to colleges and universities, whereas Section 508 applies to state and federal agencies. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was written before the wide use of the Internet, while Section 508 was updated in 1998 with technology standards. In most cases, if you comply with Section 508, you meet the standards of Section 504.
If you'd like to recommend any additional links to add to the list below, please feel free to submit a comment with your suggestions.
Web Accessibility Presentation Handouts
- Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA
- Accessibility of Web Sites to People with Disabilities
- ADA Best Practices Toolkit – Title II Checklist (Web Site Accessibility
Online Accessibility Resources
- Section 508 Standards in Detail
- 508 Resources for the Academic Community (links to college sites)
- W3C Web Accessibility Resources
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative
- University of Minnesota Web Design References (Web Accessibility)
- Educause Web Accessibility Resources, Presentations, and Publications
- U.S. Access Board
- Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM)
Web Accessibility Validators
- HiSoftware® Cynthia Says Portal
- Section508.info Validator (Page URL or Source Code)
- WAVE by WebAIM
- Firefox Web Developer Toolbar Extension
- Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Accessibility Validator (Adobe Resources)
- W3C List of Accessibility Validation Tools
It's been awhile since our last project update. I'm including below an e-mail that was sent to the college community via a campus-wide e-mail on April 9, 2010.
Since January, we have been working hard to add newly written content and migrate thousands of existing Web pages into the new content management system (CMS). In addition, the Web staff have been learning the new Ingeniux CMS, further customizing the software, and working through the many bugs that arise when rolling out new technology.
New Site Launch Date
Since the end of the academic year is quickly drawing near, we want to minimize any potential impact to faculty and current students by switching to a new system at a critical time of year. We have revised our target site launch date until mid-May following final exams. This will also allow us more time to complete our content migration and work through any remaining technical issues.
Making Updates to Existing Web Site (in the current CMS)
If you need to make important changes to content that is in the current CMS, you are free to do so. Laura Rossi and I continue to make content updates to the current live site as needed. However, if you make any content updates in the current CMS, please remember to use the process we outlined in our January project update regarding tracking those changes . This is the only way we can be sure that the changes you are making to the current site will be added to the new system. This notice does not apply to Web sites managed outside of the CMS by software like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage.
Content Review With Departments
Since we are migrating content from dozens of administrative departments to the new site, we simply do not have the time or ability to meet with each department on an individual basis prior to the launch of the new Web site. We know that many departments are anxious to get our assistance on technical, content, and creative concerns. As soon as we have the new site live, and training completed for departmental Website managers and editors, we will be happy to assist those departments needing our help. We ask for and appreciate your patience.
Training on New Content Management System
The Web staff will begin conducting group training sessions on how to use the new CMS immediately following the launch. Training sessions will likely begin in early June and continue on an ongoing basis over the summer and fall. We will endeavor to provide as many as possible, including some evening and off-hour sessions to accommodate schedules.
Next week, we will provide you with an update on important information about the new site’s architecture and navigation (the ‘what will live where map’ and how those decisions were made). That update will also include information about the publishing process.
It's been an incredibly busy last several weeks. Between juggling content writing, content migration, and setting up the technology to run the new Saint Anselm site, its been hard staying on top of everything. Over the past month and a half we've been configuring our new hosting platform with Rackspace. It's a very robust hosting platform that will allow us to do a few things we haven't been able to do to this point. The tech support at Rackspace has been great and they will provide us with another important layer of technical support for our Web site.
Last week we installed our new Ingeniux CMS on our servers. The new CMS comes in two parts, a design-time server, which is the server that stores CMS Web content and it is the software content authors and editors will access to edit pages in the new site. The design-time server then publish static pages out to a separate server called a run-time server. Changes and replication between the two servers are managed by peer-sync software. We've been hearing good thinks from the developers at BarkleyREI about the robustness of the new CMS.
Last week we also had our second walk through and review of all the new Ingeniux page types (Web templates) with BarkleyREI. It was very exciting to see everything coming together and to see just how easy it will be to post and manage content in the new CMS. The right column of the CMS will offer content authors many options from inserting photo galleries and video to pulling in Flickr feeds, YouTube videos, RSS feeds, and callouts to content on the site. Each department or section of the site will be able to have its own automated news and calendar areas. The new site will utilize a site-wide taxonomy (or keywords) allowing us to tag and distribute news content across the site.
The new site will also feature a vastly improved campus calendar, which will allow college departments to pull in events within their sites also using tags. I've included a screen shot of the calendar with this blog post and you can check out a beta version of the calendar at calendar.anselm.edu. Please note that none of the links in the header or footer of the calendar currently work as we still need to move the CMS to our Web server. The new calendar will allow visitors to subscribe to events, receive e-mail notifications and reminders, add to Outlook calendars, or bookmark an event to dozens of social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. Both news and event categories will feature RSS, which will allow content contributors to syndicate content to any number of external sites. It's important to note that a new campus calendar was one of the top three requests we received from students, faculty, and staff during the site discovery phase of the project.
Later this week, after BarkleyREI has finished running the site through quality assurance testing, we will start to build out the structure of the site (the site-wide navigation). Shortly thereafter, we will begin adding the thousands of pages of new and existing content that needs to be migrated into the new CMS. This is an enormous undertaking, one that will take several weeks to complete. At some point in the coming weeks we will have a beta version of the site available for the campus community to preview.
Lastly, we are currently behind on content writing, so this work will continue into the next several weeks as well.
We are in the final months of the Web site redesign project that we have been working on for the past 18 months. I’d like to update you on our progress and seek some help as we prepare to switch to a new Content Management System (CMS).
We are tentatively scheduled to launch the new site in mid-May following final exams. We are several weeks behind with finalizing site development, content writing, and content migration. You can follow our progress at http://www.anselm.edu/redesign or by clicking the link in the footer of the college’s home page.
Over the break, we pulled thousands of pages of essential information from the current site’s CMS in preparation to move them to the new CMS.
Much work remains, however, as we develop the new site, write content, and prepare for the migration.
For People Who Post Content to the Current Site
Please keep track of any updates you make to a Web site in the current CMS after Jan. 4, 2010. Keep those changes in a Microsoft Word document so we can incorporate them in the new CMS prior to launch. That way, the latest version of your pages will appear with the new site. Additional directions on this process are provided in this blog post.
For Those Who Maintain Non-CMS Sites
This notice does not pertain to sites uploaded via FTP, managed with software like Adobe Dreamweaver, or any other sites outside our current CMS. These pages will be automatically migrated to the new hosting platform the week prior to launching the new site. All faculty and staff will be notified via e-mail as we get closer to the date.
Thank you for your patience and for your assistance as we move through this exciting project. When launched, our new Web site will allow Saint Anselm College to tell its many stories in new and dynamic ways.
If you haven’t yet seen the new site design, I urge you to visit the design category of this blog.
As part of the migration of content from the current CMS to the new system, we are asking CMS editors and authors to track any changes you make to content after January 4, 2010. Please provide us with your CMS content changes by following the process as outlined below.
- Create a folder on the ‘P’ drive under the ‘Web Redesign’ directory ('P:/Web Redesign'). The folder name should be your department name or site name.
- Each new page or content change should be posted as separate Microsoft Word documents. If you make a change to a page, it’s easier for us if you simply copy the entire Web page and provide it to us in a Word document that includes the content changes. That way we can simple copy over the entire page to the new CMS. If you feel the need to highlight the exact changes you made on a page, please use either red font or the yellow highlighter formatting to identify the change.
- At the top of each Microsoft Word document, include the following sections:
- CONTACT: Person to contact if we have questions regarding the content changes.
- DATE OF CONTENT CHANGE: The date of the change (e.g., Date of Content Change: 1/13/09)
- NOTES: A notes section that describes the changes made to the page (please be brief)
- PAGE URL: The current URL of the page in the CMS
- PAGE LINKS: Include the full URL of all links included within each Web page. You can do this by simply including the link in brackets within your page content after the location of the link (e.g., visit our online calendar [http://www.anselm.edu/calendar] for more information.)
- Include all new images in a separate folder named “Images’ within your department directory (e.g., 'P:/Web Redesign/Department Name/Images'). It may be best to provide us with a copy of the original, high resolution image as image sizes will differ in the new CMS.
- Include all PDFs, Word, or Excel documents within a separate folder called “Attachments” (e.g., 'P:/Web Redesign/Department Name/Attachments')
If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact Doug Minor, director of Web publishing, at 656-6184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One new feature on the redesigned site, which will be located in the left navigation column, is a new Add This widget, which will allow Web visitors to easily share content with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or via e-mail. If content can be more easily shared then it should increase traffic to our Web site and improve our search traffic. At least that is the objective.
If you read any popular blogs or online news sites, you've likely seen these sharing links at the bottom of an article. I've grown to really like these sharing features as it makes sending Web content to colleagues and friends a whole lot easier.
One popular sharing tool provider Share This recently published some interesting statistics on their blog on the value of content sharing. They note that e-mail still matters. Sharing content by e-mail made up the largest percentage of shares comprising some 46 percent.
"Despite reports of its demise, e-mail is still the most popular method of sharing, and despite its meteoric rise of late, Twitter is still not a very popular sharing channel. In our research, we found that 46 percent of shares came via e-mail, 33 percent from Facebook, 14 percent from other channels such as Digg, del.icio.us, LinkedIn, etc., and just 6 percent from Twitter."
In the same blog post, Share This included data from their network of publishers that highlighted content sharing's impact on overall site traffic, search traffic, and visitor engagement.
Sharing vs. Search
Many of [ShareThis's] publishers are seeing increasing results from sharing. Here are a few network-wide observations…
- Sharing can make up 5-10% of your overall traffic.
- Sharing can make up 15-30% of your search traffic.
- Sharing drives 25-50% more engagement (page views/unique) than search.
An additional benefit of using a sharing widget on our own site is the built-in analytics capability, which will allow us to see what content is being shared across our Web site.
We are spending much of our time these days writing content for the new site. This includes writing many profiles for the new "Faces" faculty, student, and alumni Flash piece, a bank of stories for the new home page's Wall gallery, and content for the many new pages we will be adding to the site. It's all hands on deck for the Communications and Marketing staff as each member of our office is writing Web profies. We're also gearing up to have a handful of students to assist us during winter break with pulling content out of our current Web site and readying it so it can be easily posted in the new CMS.
As part of our implementation of Ingeniux CMS, we've had to decide how we want URLs to read (i.e., how will the page name read in a browser's address bar).
Out of the box, Ingeniux displays page URLs as numbers with an .xml extension (e.g., 345.xml). Although, this method is short and clean, numbers aren't real memorable. It's much easier for site visitors to remember academics.html or news.html than 345.xml. You have some inclination where academics.html will take you when clicked, whereas 345.xml is pretty vague.
To present more human-readable URLs, Ingeniux allows us to utilize structured URLs using a hyphen or an underscore as a separator and specify .htm or .html as an extension. So which is better, hyphens or underscores? For me it has always come down to usability, something we touch on during each CMS training. It is much easier to read a Web address done in hyphens than underscores, especially when including URLs in print. If URLs appear as underlined text, the underscores are often harder to read.
When it comes down to it, search engines treat both underscores and hyphens differently. Google for example treats hyphens as separators or dividers while underscores are not treated as such as shown below.
Underscores vs. Hyphens
Example 1: www.anselm.edu/my_web_page.html
Example 2: www.anselm.edu/my-web-page.html
How Google reads these URLs.
Example 1: mywebpage
Example 2: my web page