Category Archive for: ‘Information Architecture’

Project Update: Knee Deep in Web Content and Planning

Since the fall, the digital staff and several freelance Web writers have been busy reviewing and writing content across the site. With 19,000 pages in the current content management system (CMS), the process of reviewing, reorganizing, editing, and writing has taken longer than anticipated.

Site Launch – After Commencement 2013

We are currently on schedule to launch the new site sometime after commencement 2013. After launch, work will continue on the project over the summer and fall 2013.

Department Websites

In an effort to help reduce the workload on departments, it was determined early on that we would take a first crack at rewriting some content in advance of collaborating with department directors and chairs to review and discuss.

For a little background on our process:

  • every page is manually cut and paste from the current CMS into Word documents
  • text is edited for consistency and style so there is some continuity across the new site
  • meta descriptions and keywords are added to each new page as are subheadings to make pages easier to scan
  • we make sure each page is appropriately titled based on page content, identify possible callouts, etc.
  • identify and size photography and video assets to support page content

Our objectives are to make pages easier for site visitors to scan, find in site search, to strip out unnecessary formatting that won’t be compatible with the new site, and make content easier to migrate into the new CMS implementation.

We look forward to meeting with departments in the near future to discuss their site content, discuss Davidson’s goals for the project, help departments realize and manage their goals, and highlight the people and stories that make Davidson such a special place.

Migration of Top-Level Pages Begins Soon

Our Web vendor, BarkleyREI, has been busy with CMS development since November. We are currently scheduled to get access to the new CMS site implementation the week of February 11, at which point we will begin building out the information architecture for the site and start migrating high-level site content.

Inventory of Non-CMS Sites

As many of you are aware, the college currently serves up webpages over multiple subdomains – www, www2, and www3. Part of our work has also included inventorying content outside of the CMS to identify what content, online forms, and applications:

  1. need to be “reskinned” with the new site design
  2. what content can be archived because it is no longer wanted or needed by departments
  3. what can be consolidated
  4. what will be left untouched

One of the benefits of doing the inventory and spring cleaning is to remove old site content that is no longer needed and eliminating it from clogging up search results.

With that said, many academic departments maintain a number of sites/pages outside of the CMS and that won’t change.

Web Governance, Web Standards, and Policies

The redesign and development of Davidson website is an extensive undertaking and major investment in enhancing the college’s online image. It is important that as a campus community we as individuals understand the responsibility of maintaining the Davidson site and other digital properties according to best practices and at the highest possible quality.

When we talk about Web governance we refer to the people, policies, standards, and guidelines that govern the creation and maintenance of our official website and digital properties. Why do we have a website? Who is accountable? Who makes decisions regarding its current and future development? How are content authors and contributors supported? What is our content and brand strategy? How is success measured?

As part of project discovery and in our discussions since, we’ve tried to address these questions and others in drafting a set of standards, policies, guidelines, and a governance framework to support success for the long term. We will be presenting these recommendations to PES in the coming weeks.

It’s hard for Web content authors to communicate in a similar voice or understand what expectations there are if we aren’t all working from the same baseline. Here is a quick summary of some of the items we are trying to address.

  • site management – develop a management and organizational structure for the college’s digital presence that clearly articulates who the decision makers are, who is accountable to who, who sets standards, who is responsible for enforcement and compliance, what is the process for appealing decisions, etc.
  • site/digital branding standards – what are the new site’s colors, fonts, and other design/style elements, can I create my own logo and use it on my Davidson site or my department’s social media sites, what style of photography is preferred, how should I talk about Davidson with external audiences?
  • mobile – the new site will be mobile friendly utilizing a responsive design approach. Mobile is here to stay and will continue to grow, so it is important that we our decisions and work take this into consideration
  • Web accessibility – the new site needs to be accessible to all visitors, including those that are hearing or visually impaired
  • online style guide – with thousands of pages on our site, it’s important that we identify preferred style choices and voice. Should content authors use e-mail or email, Web site or website, advisor or adviser, how should we talk about the honor code or The Davidson Trust?
  • social media guidelines – what are the expectations and recommended best practices for personal and college social media accounts

CMS Workflow, Content Support, and Training

Based on the eye-opening conversations during project discovery and how it informed our site strategy, we’ve reviewed how we staff the Web and support content contributors and authors. It became quickly apparent that additional digital staff were needed to support academic and administrative departments with website updates and ongoing content development. Our website is our most accessed communications vehicle, but ongoing maintenance and content development is relegated to faculty and staff who have other primary job responsibilities. We acknowledge it’s difficult to write engaging content and stories if you don’t have time in your schedule to devote to it. It’s hard to work in the CMS and be proficient if you only access it 3-4 times per year or semester. It’s difficult to post photos to your site if you struggle with using Photoshop.

With the launch of the new website, additional digital staff will be available to:

  • provide content contributors with assistance writing and updating content
  • review content posted as part of CMS workflow
  • provide group-based CMS training
  • offer weekly office hours where faculty and staff can get assistance with their Web projects

Part of this fits well within College Communications move toward a “digital first” approach to communications, providing support for the college’s strategic priorities and initiatives, and a realization among many at Davidson that to offer a high quality, engaging website and digital presence that better highlights the Davidson experience you need to staff and support it accordingly.

The core Web team, which includes representatives from Information Technology Services, College Communications, and College Relations, has been instrumental in recognizing and advocating for the need to better support faculty and staff content contributors. What we learned during project discovery resonated with many of us and has informed much of our thinking.

Related Links

Homepage Wireframes

Before any work begins on developing design concepts, wireframes are created for the homepage and all lower level page templates. Wireframes are basic illustrations of the structure of pages and they help clarify the various elements that will go on every Web page — navigational elements, page functionality, content blocks, and page display scenarios. During the wireframe process you begin to see months of work on research, strategy, information architecture and user experience come together.

Since we are undertaking a responsive design for our project we need to create wireframes for desktop, tablet and mobile views as shown below. Click on each image to view a larger slideshow.

Home Page Desktop Wireframe