Whatever we want to call it, the overhauled ithaca.edu experience will be rolling out this winter and we're super excited about it. But what's going to be in it? What's going away, what's different, and what's new?
- A new content management system and hosting platform.
As some of you may know, the existing content management system (CMS), Web Profile Manager or WPM, was built in-house over a decade ago by some extremely talented web developers/architects and has been hosted on campus-based servers ever since. As discussed in this post, there are several reasons we needed to upgrade. Our very thorough decision-making process led us to Drupal for our new CMS (one that is highly flexible, capable, and open source), and all of our hosting will now be done securely, at rapid delivery speeds, and with fail-safes, in the cloud. Combined with a commitment to Agile development methods and iterative releases to foster an indefinite cycle of continual improvement, we're very well poised to have one of the most customizable and reliable website platforms in the industry.
- A new visual identity and design, plus it's all mobile-friendly.
This is probably the most visible piece of the overhauled site, and perhaps one of the most desired. In relying extensively on user research and in collaborating deeply with our creative/strategic partners beyond, a completely re-thought user interface aesthetic was born. Gone are the muted and dark blues and grays and dated typefaces and navigation elements of the existing site. Instead, a super clean and modern treatment is now taking shape, with bright and energetic colors and fonts, combined with a richer multimedia presence and easier reading and interaction experience. The visual choices, from color pallet to typography to rich multimedia, combine to reflect and communicate the vibrance, energy and excellence of IC's community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni alike. Oh, and the site will be dynamic. Mobile versions of the site will be easy to read and interact with, while losing none of the information or capabilities of the identically styled desktop version.
- A new content identity and structure.
Not only do we have a whole batch of new content on the way, but we've also done some major rewriting and reworking of existing content that will be moving over to the new site when it's ready. The different pieces of a given page or content item have been built with a 'Create Once, Publish Everywhere' model, allowing content elements to be repurposed throughout the site in multiple places at once, while only having to maintain or edit one single instance of that content—changes are reflected automatically and immediately anywhere it's used. The way we speak about the college and its people, places, and programs has also been completely revamped. An approachable, colloquial tone that holds steadfast to IC's reputation as a place of academic excellence and integrity, was crafted by our team and will be seen throughout the site in a way to make the college's descriptive information more compelling, frank, and helpful for readers and viewers. Plus, it will be far more easy to place photos and videos in more places than before.
- A new information architecture.
Commonly perceived as the navigation and URL structures, our new information architecture will be changing significantly to help users more easily find the information they seek no matter which page they're on. A rebuilt set of navigation menus makes finding important information intuitive and quick (i.e. you can find parking information under "facilities" and multiple other places, not just under "safety," where it is currently located on our live site). A largely restructured set of URL directories allows for easy understanding of how content relates to each other, and reflects the info-seeking patterns of our users rather than the organizational structure of the college's divisions, departments, and programs. And the site search will be more helpful in quickly suggesting and locating the information you need, sparing the time expense of spending a few seconds in the lovely new navigation menus if you're in a hurry.
With the launch of Version 1, most of the ithaca.edu content will remain on WPM, with a plan to roll-over or migrate content to Drupal in waves starting this winter and going through mid-summer. We will work closely with all of our content managers to provide training and support to make it as easy as possible.
Please check this blog often to see what new features might be rolled out next. Release notes will be included for every new version or update of the site, so no one feels left out of the loop of cool new stuff.