Re: Academic Department Sites

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Re: Academic Department Sites

Megan McDermott
On Fri, 19 Sep 2008 09:11:28 -0400, Dempsey, Paul <[hidden email]>  
wrote:


> Can anyone share examples of good academic department sites that include  
> college site-wide navigation and common layout and navigation for the  
> department information, but also provide room for the departments to  
> express their own identity? I assume these will be published within a  
> CMS, but I'm looking for those that avoid the cookie-cutter style that  
> can sometimes approach.

We have a base template that can be customized by departments. The  
definition is quite loose and some areas have customized the template  
quite a bit. The level of adoption was very good overall. Many areas were  
happy that someone else took care of the design. There are only a few  
departments that don't use it, and some leftover smaller units that are  
still using the old template.

The default template looks like this:

http://webops.uwaterloo.ca/index.html
(the main graphic is always custom, a small selection of default photos  
are provided)

The CSS is stored centrally and all areas are supposed to link to the  
central CSS. Then they can add a custom css file to build on the default.  
We don't have a common university-wide navigation menu now. That's  
something we'll consider adding in the next design. The header and footer  
are standard though.

Some areas that have customized it (in a good way):

Home page: http://uwaterloo.ca
Faculty of Environment: http://environment.uwaterloo.ca
Prospective students: http://findoutmore.uwaterloo.ca
Communications: http://communications.uwaterloo.ca/

One of the problems we've seen with this is that some units will hire a  
professional web designer and do some really nice things with it (as  
above) while other areas hire students or let their developers make  
changes (not in a good way). We've ended up with a lot of variation in  
designs and in quality of design. I hope next time we can improve on what  
we have by:

1. Making it easier to do customizations well - providing colour schemes,  
more & better photos, etc.
2. Providing more variations of the templates (perhaps some additional  
optional regions) to consistently address needs that have arisen.
3. Developing more complete and specific guidelines on what can and cannot  
be changed; possibly writing a style guide.
4. Trying to improve communication so people don't extend the template on  
their own (in a bad way).
5. Updating the template more often or future-proofing it so some of these  
adatpations won't be necessary (we've had several people completely  
re-code the template with mixed results).
6. Getting a proper web team in place to provide support.

Of course you can't control what anyone does, and some will continue to do  
their own thing anyway, but I think the above steps will help a lot in  
getting us a better quality and more consistent web space.

Elsewhere, I'm impressed with Concordia's site (concordia.ca) - they've  
left room for customization while keeping a consistent look across their  
sites. See:

http://concordia.ca/
http://artsandscience1.concordia.ca/
http://graduatestudies.concordia.ca/

--
Megan McDermott
University of Waterloo

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Re: Academic Department Sites

Justin Floyd
We don't have a CMS, yet. But we do require that our department stick to the templates. Here are a couple of examples where the departments have had an opportunity to build something unique within the template.
 
 
 
 
Hope this helps.
 
Justin Floyd
Web Designer
Cape Fear Community College
910-362-7234



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