Waves of change

“Now we’ve started to roll this out to the public, but we’re not doing this all at once as one big curtain reveal. These changes are like dominoes, so they fall in a certain order. Once we
accomplish one task, the next task can be completed much more easily.” – from the presentation given at the last CMS user’s group meeting

The dominoes are starting to fall: the new Campus Life and Costs & Aid pages are live, the new header and footer are live throughout the site, and we’ve started converting websites to the new responsive template.

As we mentioned before, we’re starting with a focus on subjects of primary importance to prospective students. We’re also front-loading a few sites that have complex aspects. In the early phases, we’re developing and adjusting our process as we go, writing documentation, and bringing in the first CMS user guinea pigs.

Sections that have already been converted:

  • About Evergreen
  • Tours & Maps
  • Search
  • Academics

The first wave:

  • Admissions
  • Advising
  • Financial Aid
  • Housing & Dining

These sites are the first we’re doing in coordination with our CMS users. We want to especially thank Diane, Kitty, Trina, Noel, and their colleagues for being willing to come with us on this journey.

The next wave:

  • Academic Catalog
  • Directories
  • Student Activities
  • Campus Calendar
  • Evaluations
  • New Students
  • Individual Study
  • The Masters’ Programs

If you are involved with any of these sites, expect to hear from us after the first of the year. If you are not on that list, keep an eye out for future announcements. Because we’re still working out the process, we don’t have a hard timeline.

For all of our CMS users, the most important thing you can do now is to review your content! Is it current? Was it selected or written with its audience in mind? (Do you know who your primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences are? If not, use this worksheet as a guideline for a discussion with your colleagues.) Having your site up-to-date and well organized will make for a faster transition as we work through the sites.

CMS Upgrade

We’ve upgraded the CMS this week as part of our work towards a more responsive website. CMS users will notice a few changes, which we’ve tried to outline here. As always, if you run into any issues or have problems, let us know.

Your new dashboard

You no longer have a “Starting Page” when you log in. Instead, you have a dashboard with tools for managing and creating content.

dashboard

The new site header

The site header, which was looking strange for a bit, now looks much as it does on the main site.

view-page

Drafts

Cascade now auto-saves drafts while you work. To be honest, we’re not entirely sure how this works, since we haven’t worked with it yet. Just submit & publish as usual, and let us know if something weird happens.

editing-draft

Now that this upgrade is done, we can start moving on converting sections of the website to the new responsive templates. Keep an eye out for more info on that!

Laying Out Our New Global Nav

We’ve been hard at work doing a lot of research and under-the-hood work to make some major changes to the web site. We hope you’ll find the new layout and wayfinding more useful and intuitive over the long term, but we understand that you might be confused about where some links have gone.

The new global header for evergreen.edu

The new global header for evergreen.edu features five main links: Home, Academics, Campus Life, Costs & Aid, and Admissions.

Dissecting the New Header

Much of our global navigation is the same. (That’s the list of links at the top of every Evergreen page.) There are a couple new items worth noting, though.

  • The header is now primarily geared toward explaining all about Evergreen. Home is where you’ll discover what makes Evergreen a unique college to attend.
  • The Academics section talks about just how it is we go beyond classes, majors, and grades.
  • Campus Life is all about non-academic life at Evergreen, including living and playing. The former Athletics tab has been moved under this page.
  • Costs & Aid breaks down tuition costs and how you can get scholarships and other aid to help cover those costs.
  • Finally, the Admissions tab covers everything a prospective student needs to know about applying to Evergreen.

We’ve also moved a few of the previous navigation tabs around.

  • Athletics has been moved to its new home in Campus Life.
  • Directories is still in the header, under the search field.
  • In case you were looking for a job here, Employment has been moved to the footer.
The new search area

The new search area now features links to my.evergreen.edu and Webmail.

My, My, my.evergreen.edu

We used some tools to find out what current students and faculty & staff were clicking on in their respective pages, and by far you were all going to my.evergreen.edu and Webmail. We’ve made it super easy for you, because now you can find those links at the top of every page, right underneath the search bar.

Another item in that area is a link to Directories, where you can find the lists of faculty and staff that you need to get in contact with.

Small screen profile view

On smaller screens, press the profile icon for links to my.evergreen.edu and Webmail.

Small screen search view

On smaller screens, press the magnifying glass to reveal search tools.

Going Mobile

Our goal is to have all pages mobile-ready by July 2014, but several pages have already been optimized for your phones and tablets. We’ve tried to keep as much of our content exposed as possible, because our hope is that you’ll get a consistent and predictable experience, no matter your device.

In the case of the header, on small devices, we’ve moved a few of the items behind some toggles. Pressing the magnifying glass icon will open up the search and directories, while the user icon will reveal my.evergreen.edu and Webmail.

The rest of the global navigation will continue to appear more or less as it does on your desktop computer.

Continuous Iteration

This is just the start for some big changes to come. We’re chugging along, and making continuous updates to keep Evergreen’s website up-to-date with the latest innovations. We hope you’re finding what you need, but if you notice any bugs, please send them to us and we’ll try to get it fixed as soon as we can.

Make a new page, don’t break the old links

With the arrival of summer, many CMS editors are working on improving the contents of their web pages. Sometimes, while you’re working on rewriting a page, you want to leave the existing page alone. But it’s not always easy to keep all your links working when you make the new page live!

We’ve had the same problem, and we have some handy instructions we’ve written up on the Computing Help Wiki. Check out “Creating a new page for testing” — let us know if you have questions or need clarification.

Happy editing!

Updated Payroll Site

Last fall some of the staff in Payroll came to observe the usability study that we did for the Employment site. After that experience, they decided that they wanted to do the same so that they could improve their site. We put them on our schedule, and when the time came, asked them to identify tasks that they wanted users to complete on their website.

As part of our preparation for the test, we turn those tasks into “scenarios” — stories that we’ll have the testers work through. We run those scenarios ourselves to make sure they can be done. After all, we don’t want to waste anyone’s time! We discovered very quickly that many of the tasks were either unreasonably difficult or impossible to accomplish.

Since we had the time with Payroll staff blocked out, we cancelled the testing and instead went through the documents that we showed at the last user’s group:

  • A worksheet to identify audiences, their goals, your goals, and what needs to be done to make the site meet those goals.
  • A content inventory, a spreadsheet where you list out all the pages on the existing website.

We spent about three hours answering those questions, comparing the answers to what was on the site, and figuring out what pages needed to be on the site, and what information needed to be on which page. We actually left the home page for last.

We ended up questioning some of our own assumptions: initially everyone had thought there would be two separate sites, one for payroll and one for benefits. But the audiences were similar and the number of pages wasn’t that large, so we just split them out in the site’s left-hand navigation. We left that day with an agreement about who would work on which pieces.

After the meeting, Susan added some more of the Payroll staff as CMS users and I created a new site with the pages that we’d identified in the meeting. Then they copied or wrote new content on those page. At the end, they wrote a brief introduction and created a news section for the home page. A few weeks later we were able to launch the new site.

Now their site is easier to scan for accurate and useful information. It’s organized and written with their audiences in mind, which should mean that you spend less time doing what you need to get benefits and get paid.

Today’s tip: prevent publishing

If you have a page that’s not yet ready to be seen by the whole world, or if you’re holding onto a copy of a page that’s been removed from the website, you probably don’t want it to be published.

But if you publish a whole folder…then everything inside it gets published. :(

It doesn’t have to be that way! You can set any page, file, or folder to remain unpublished. Check out our new wiki page, Preventing items from being published, for instructions.

Cascade User Group Event Notes

  1. Introductions: Susan had everyone introduce themselves to one person they didn’t know, as they came in, since we didn’t have time to go around. She also introduced Elaine [me], and talked about our new designer, Justin, who starts on October 1.
  2. Goals (Susan): we’ll be holding these meetings more regularly! We can’t cover everything that was requested, nor everything we think you ought to know. We want you to get the highlights, and to know that you can always ask us for help, whether it’s fixing an error or reworking your whole site.
  3. Web Team Plans (Susan): two notable items:
    • An upcoming update will require republishing everything on the website. We’ll send an email to let you know, sometime within the next month. That makes now a good time to clean up your site!
    • We’re working on making the website more responsive, so it works better on mobile devices, starting with the most visible areas for recruitment, retention, and fundraising.
  4. Consistency (Susan): a reminder that CMS users are important, providing the critical content that site visitors need. Keeping a consistent look and structure helps those visitors know where they are and where they need to go.
  5. Resources (Susan): took a look at the Web Resources page, including the CMS Help and our brand new form for requesting assistance. Also, we’ll be moving the Cascade CMS documentation into the main Computing Help Wiki, but the Web Resources page will still get you there.
  6. CMS Updates(Susan): a few little things:
    • Now when you move/rename a page, it automatically unpublishes the page.
    • With speed improvements, no more need to check Publisher Status to see if your pages have published yet.
    • And some little navigation improvements that are easy to show, hard to describe in words.
  7. Formatting (Elaine): mostly talking about “what things break for you.”
    • Acknowledging that sometimes text gets horribly mangled, and it happens to all of us, especially when pasting from Word. In some browsers you can use the Paste as Plain Text button, otherwise a two-step paste (Word > Notepad/Textedit > Cascade) can help. If something’s hopelessly mangled, contact the Web Team to get faster clean-up, or use the Versions feature (under More) to go back to an older version of the page.
    • Demonstrated two link checking tools: the W3C Link Validator, and a Firefox Add-in.
  8. Questions, in which we covered:
    • A bit about images and how to align them to one side or the other.
    • Bulk uploading (go to Tools > Zip Archive)
    • Google Analytics, showing a report we created to help one site understand what their top pages were.

Checking for broken links

Several people asked about that in the survey we sent out before the next User Group meeting. Here’s two ways to check for broken links:

W3C Link Checker: if you want to test several pages, check “Check linked documents recursively, recursion depth” – setting the recursion depth to 1 will check all the pages linked in the side navigation.

Firefox Link Checker Add-on: allows you to see the status of links for the page that you’re visiting. Right-click on the page, or click on the Tools menu, and select “Check Page Links”