Monthly Archives: October 2006

Another update on the web conversion

Things are rolling along. As you’ve no doubt noticed, more and more pages are going live with the new design. Things will slow down a bit as our student helpers have fewer hours to work, but you will keep seeing progress.

The next big issue is training the web editors in various departments to use the new system. The main differences from the old system are as follows:

  1. You create new pages using a web form. The new system depends on PHP code to load in the external files that contain all the header and footer design elements, but we don’t want to force everybody to learn a new language. So we’ve designed a web form where you just input the title and location of the page, and some search engine keywords, and choose a side menu, and then hit submit; this creates the page and inserts all the necessary PHP code. From that point, you can edit the page without needing to know any PHP (or even any HTML, if you’re using Contribute.)
  2. You need a special setup in Dreamweaver or Contribute to edit anything visually. If you are a code geek, you can use any text editor to change your webpage by editing the raw code, but most people probably aren’t that hard-core, even if they had the time on their hands to learn to code. You can use Macromedia Dreamweaver or Contribute to visually edit pages, though either one will require some initial setup by UCS (though we are working on making instructions available on the web and through the TRC.)
  3. You need to be consistent with visual styles. The new system provides a menu of visual styles that look good with the new template. This makes it easy to add and update content and make it look nice; the flipside of this is that you won’t be able to use huge green blinking italics to highlight important information. (Note that personal sites on the P: drive are exempt from this; you can do whatever you want there.)
  4. You are expected to keep your web pages up-to-date.In the old days, we were pretty lax about keeping everything updated, and requiring other departments to do the same on their own pages. Those days are done. With the new simplicity of Contribute, there is no excuse for pages to get stale. Most web editors will have responsibility for only a few pages, and tools to edit them easily, so you will be able to stay on top of things.

On top of all that, the biggest benefit of this massive update is that the next update will be much easier. We will be able to totally redesign the site without forcing everybody to update all their files all at once; since most of the design elements come from external files in a central location, we can just update those files and BAM! the whole site changes without you having to lift a finger. If we discover a problem with the new design, it will be easy to fix, unlike the previous template.
It will take us a lot of time and energy to get to that point, but the effort is already paying off. Once this is done, we’ll have a site that will make other universities green with envy. More to the point, it will show that WOU is not stuck behind the times, which will directly translate to higher enrollment, which benefits everybody here.