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The website for the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research is essentially complete for what can be accomplished ahead of moving it into the Compass template, though there are a few tasks that remain before calling it completely complete for the first wave of implementation. Remaining tasks for the first wave are:

  • Adding metadata to all pages
  • Creating an 'intellectual life' page that also links to a 'faculty bookshelf' page (awaiting content from SSOR)
  • Creating a feature section for the homepage where the unit can display something special (e.g., a link and image to a virtual graduation page or another special story)
  • Converting course syllabi PDFs into accordion content for the Courses section (this work has been ongoing since fall '19 and will likely not be complete until early 2021)
  • Creating documentation/style guide for web liaison use

Wave 2, which will take place when it is moved into a Compass template, will include the following additional work:

  • Rebuilding the staff directory with new Compass HTML/CSS
  • Replacing Gboot templated items with Compass templated items (e.g., header, footer, navigation, etc.)
  • Apply new Compass page layouts and debug styling override issues that may arise

Other units can expect a similar look and feel to the SSOR site. I'm also attempting to standardize some information architecture features such as taxonomies for main navigation items. For example, staff directory pages will be labeled 'Directory' vs. 'People,' 'Staff,' or other labels. (Redirects can be installed as needed.)

Some new stylistic and content elements that are introduced on the SSOR site and that will be implemented across CHS sites include:

  • prominent button on homepage that invites students to explore careers in the major (link connects to a career-focused page with content copied from the program's major map)
  • blockquote styling for news articles (e.g., news article on Dr. Durfee and her students)
  • large button style/navigation element for degree programs and wherever else it can be useful (e.g., Concentration in Operations Research)
  • 'Back to Previous' navigation element (e.g., see bottom of page of news article on sense of smell and mathematical models)
  • WYSIWYG styling for classes such as t4_button, t4_text-success, t4_text-warning, etc. (e.g., t4_text-primary can be seen at bottom of the Seminars page - blue box) 
  • CSS classes for cards for displaying two, three, or four across (or down) on viewports >=768 (e.g., Courses)
  • content standardization on academic program pages - an overview with links to the bulletin for degree requirements, plan of study, courses, and major map for undergrad programs (e.g., Concentration in Statistics) and links to admissions, degree requirements, and contacts for grad programs (at minimum) (e.g., M.S. in Operations Research)
  • installation of various FontAwesome icons with instructions for use (e.g., Systems Modeling and Analysis page at very bottom in blue box - the blue bookmark icon and the external link icon)
  • a static hero image headlining the homepage with the elimination of slideshows (a feature area on the homepage will be used instead)
  • the 'intellectual life' page and 'faculty bookshelf' page mentioned above are other features that, once implemented on SSOR, will be used on other unit sites, as well

The next few sites up for redo are:

  • lsee.vcu.edu
  • math.vcu.edu
  • sysm.vcu.edu
  • siam.vcu.edu

The math department has said it wants to put an ad hoc committee together to advise me on the web initiative, so they (along with the other sites that relate to them, sysm.vcu.edu and siam.vcu.edu) may get pushed down the list until they are ready with their input. If that happens, I will move ahead with Military Science and Leadership and then the School of World Studies before circling back to Math, SYSM, and SIAM.

Progress on the redesign project is far slower than I would like, though at an appropriate pace for the low level of staffing resources available to devote to the project. 

Accomplishments

  • We established our objectives for the project related to aesthetics, content, user experience, and upkeep/maintenance for the new unit sites. 
  • We established the primary audience for our unit sites as prospective students with secondary audiences of alumni/donors, current students, prospective faculty, and internal faculty and staff.
  • The team compiled and reviewed a competitive analysis of unit sites from other colleges and universities. We identified desirable features that can be incorporated into our own designs.
  • The project was divided into two waves. Wave 1 will comprise the pre-Compass period (i.e., work that can be completed ahead of moving sites into the Compass framework) and Wave 2 will be work that can proceed once sites are in Compass.
  • Some design elements for Wave 1 were identified and discussed. These include, for example, homepage heroes, landing page heroes, heading styles, button styles, blockquote styles, cards, and iconography.
  • A strategic decision was made for unit homepages to forego the use of slideshows in favor of a static image that contains the department's name with a bold tagline that lies just below that conveys concisely what the department is about. Our inspiration for this decision is GW's African Studies site. Content that would normally reside in slideshows will be relegated to a homepage news section or feature section.
  • The first three units on the redesign list (SSOR, LSEE, and Math) were contacted and asked to submit pre-planning worksheets.

Next Steps

  • Complete a first attempt to draft a primary and secondary navigation content structure that could be applied across most units.
  • Complete a content accounting of what a unit homepage will comprise.
  • Begin work designing frames for homepage heroes and selecting appropriate images for each unit.
  • Begin drafting unit taglines.
  • Consider student interns for fall for web, graphics, and social media.
  • Begin content clean-up and plugin migration on ssor.vcu.edu.




Unit Redesign Launch

This week our team had its official site redesign launch for its units. 

Accomplishments

  • Team roles established
  • Project resources were discussed and considered
  • A document listing the audience, objectives, and goals for the project was composed
  • competitive analysis spreadsheet was created
  • The first three units on the redesign list were contacted and were requested to complete the pre-planning worksheet

Next Steps

  • Seek student interns for fall for web, graphics, and social media
  • Brainstorm design elements for redesign
  • Begin content analysis on SSOR and gather unit pre-planning data


Good day, everyone. This blog entry is the first installment in a monthly series of updates I will give you about the College's website redesign, establishment of an intranet, and roll-out of new web templates for CHS units. I will also be sending this blog content as a monthly email to College leadership as well as to its unit chairs so they are in-the-know on progress and expectations.

TL;DR (too long; didn't read)

  • College homepage mock-up drafted
  • When available, Logan Bishop will help units with web support for existing sites; Jen will focus on new sites
  • New web framework has been chosen: Bootstrap
  • Jen learning new responsivity/layout techniques
  • To get ready for transition, units can (1) archive old web content, (2) make web documents ADA accessible, and (3) upgrade current images where possible

Where we are

Homepage drafted. A mock-up of the new external-facing CHS homepage was completed and shown to CHS leadership in September. CHS leadership approved the layout and aesthetic of the page. 

Support in place. When he is available, Logan Bishop, an IT analyst in HASTECH, will be helping manage web operations by assisting units with site updates and support while I focus on coding and production in the months ahead of the launch. Logan will also be inventorying web documents and reaching out to document authors with resources on how to make them ADA compliant ahead of the transition. Units requiring web support services should continue to use the College's web updates form and the webmaster email (chswebmaster@vcu.edu) during this time. Logan is taking on these tasks in addition to an already full plate, so we ask for patience in turnaround times for non-urgent requests.

Framework chosen. Because of its high degree of responsivity across a number of screen sizes and its wide support across a number of browsers, I have decided on using the Bootstrap framework for the new sites. 

Learning new skills. I have been spending some time learning the new grid layout for CSS (and reviewing some earlier techniques I have learned and forgotten) so that I can apply the principles to the layout of the new sites. The grid system uses a series of containers, rows, and columns to lay out and align content that is fully responsive to the various screen sizes we must accommodate in 2018. I am completing a Bootstrap review/tutorial so I am familiar with as much of its functionalities as possible ahead of making some page layouts. I will also be meeting with Web Services this week to go over how to best integrate the framework with T4 and  how to use some of the T4 developer tools I haven't had the pleasure of working with before.

What units can be doing now to prepare for the transition to a new site

  1. Housecleaning! Take this opportunity to archive your old news, announcements, and events. Make sure your content is up-to-date, and that quality assurance (broken links, misspellings) and accessibility errors are kept to a minimum.
  2. Conduct a web document inventory. Documents that do not meet ADA accessibility standards will not be migrated to the new sites. Please reference my original email from September which contains further information on how you can meet this requirement.
  3. Upgrade images. The use of new retina displays is increasing all the time and means low resolution photos look even worse than they used to (and they have always looked quite bad). One of the best and easiest things you can do to improve your site aesthetic is to use good quality photos (especially SVGs). Here is a list of eight free photo sites that do not require attribution. For photos of faculty and staff, be sure to use only those that are good quality if they are to be posted on a website.

Still have questions? Do not hesitate to contact me anytime and I will do my best to clarify progress.