Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Creative Commons HiggySTFCThis week work began on a mysterious new website.  It’s one that few people will ever see but it’s one of the most important sites we’ll do this year.  “But if no one’s going to see it, why is it so important?”, I hear you ask (because I’ve got voices in my head).  It’s important because it will form the basis of brand new websites for every Faculty and Department at Edge Hill.

Since we went live with the new website structure and designs last year, we’ve known it was only a short matter of time before we’d have to address department sites.  Now is that time, and we’ve got ambitious plans to get new sites live as quickly as possible.  Instead of running projects sequentially, we’re running them concurrently.  That’s right – three faculties and eight departments at the same time!

To make this possible, projects will be a close collaboration between Web Services, Corporate Marketing and the departments to ensure all the information we need is available and we can create the best website possible.

We’re making use of a picklist of components – some which you’ll already see on the website, others will be new – to make creating the websites a bit like a jigsaw – each one will use different pieces but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

And which lucky department gets to go first?  That honour goes to the Department of Magic – our new demo website where we’ll be bashing out structure, squashing bugs and honing new features.  It’s not quite ready to launch – and since we don’t actually offer a BSc (Hons) Conjuring it might never get released – but check back here for progress over the coming weeks.

Go Go Gadget GO Redesign

Just a quick post, really to explain the re-skinning of the GO navigation bar. We are currently developing a wiki that will eventually replace the intranet. The wiki will have the same look and feel as GO, so that we have a consistent style and user experience across applications. We also hope eventually to adapt other systems in the same way, online mail and Blackboard for example.

GO screenshot

My main aims regarding the GO redesign were really to add contrast and economy to the interface, and update the typography so that it reflects the current Edge Hill branding. I was also conscious that the old version was overloaded with unnecessary background images, which slowed down the application and caused the CSS to mushroom.

I will write a more comprehensive overview of the wiki design soon.

Vote for us at BlogHighEd

BlogHighEdA little while ago I submitted the Edge Hill Web Services blog to be considered for BlogHighEd.  Well the voting is now open so have a look at the entries – you can open them all at once – and maybe vote for one you like.  We’re listed under my name but it’s very much a team effort!

While you’re at it, take a look at some of the other members of BlogHighEd including the inspired Tales from Redesignland (not that I recognise any of the characters from Edge Hill!!) and College Web Guy who comes out with some great posts.

I’ve mentioned before how few UK HE web teams blog so it’s important to look beyond our shores to the wider community.  The US might do some things differently, but there’s a lot we can learn!

Vote now!

GOing, GOing, GOne!

With little fanfare old go portal has been retired. This has been a long coming event that had to take place eventually, and well, that moment has been and gone. For quite a while now there have been highly visible notices in old go for both students and staff alerting users to its impending demise.

Out with the old go:

old go

In with the new GO:

Screenshot of new GO

Now that we are no longer having to maintain two versions of the portal we can concentrate more of our resources on improving the interface of GO, its usability, and its feature set.

We welcome all feedback on this – you can even use the GO forum to provide feedback!

Hopefully soon to hit this blog will be some screenshots of work-in-progress on a new look for GO, stay tuned 🙂

Steve Daniels

Question time with Dan

[Note: this was written way back on the 5th of December but has been stuck in perpetual draft status till I could find a decent picture. Oh well, I couldn’t. So here it is :-)]

So yesterday was a long day indeed. But it was quite worthwhile and I’ve managed to glean a few tips, tricks and directions to go with for our Confluence install. Yesterday was the Atlassian User Group Workshop down in London town. Mike Nolan and myself made trip down courtesy of Virgin Trains, arriving just in time for a spot of lunch and then to the Bonnington on Bloomsbury Square.

The event started with the usual meet and greet where I got the opportunity to match a few faces to the names and websites that I’ve been conversing with on Twitter, JIRA and and mining for knowledge on wiki adoption. Emma Wallace from Social8 made an immediate impression on me, talking briefly about asking users the right questions and about getting the user to see that this knew way of working (on a wiki) is going to be beneficial for them, so encouraging their uptake. I received a very knowing look when I said we were working on the implementation first, and thinking more about user uptake afterwards.. this is a common mistake, a situation we hope to rectify.

I also got a chance to chat to Boo Armstrong from Get Well UK who was looking to implement Confluence, she was after peoples opinions, pitfalls and views. When I was asked what my favourite bit of Confluence was, I thought for just a moment, and then it hit me – WebDav. In a project where your taking the unwieldy jungle of a shared network drive and trying to convert people to the wonders of wiki collaboration and benefits of sexy search, giving them the ability to drag and drop their existing file structure into the wiki and build around it is a very nice feature indeed. It was also nice to chat to the Adaptavist folks since they’re only from down the road from us and they’re who we bought our Confluence from.

After the meet and greet first up was Josh Wold from Atlassian who gave a full run down of the past 6 months progress of the company and where their products where going in the future. It was quite an interesting round up and well presented.

Next was Alex Lotoczko from NYK Europe who talked about the use of their wiki’s particularly when working with the BBC on “The Box” project. My main interest was admittedly the box.. I feel more detail could have been gotten into regarding the usage of the wiki, perhaps some statistics and screenshots from the wiki itself. I got more from Stewart Mader‘s post on the subject of NYK’s Confluence intranet project.

The people and personalities using the wiki are the most important aspect. Without getting them on board it’s all pointless really. Emma Wallace talked to us in great detail about people and the right questions to ask them. Are you asking the right questions? I most certainly wasn’t, but I hope to in the future. You need ask people the right questions to help them learn and understand that (hopefully) the ways of the wiki and collaboration is good for them, will enable them to work more efficiently, and win the lottery. Well maybe not the last bit, but you get the point.

Next up was what I found the most useful, and so named my blog post such! Question time with Dan was effectively what it was. It was meant to be a more open discussion, customer to customer, user to user I believe but by and large it was an open floor to ask Dan questions and tap his knowledge. I’d had a question or two answered during the meet and great about reporting and stats which I was greatly interested in so I didn’t really actively take part in this session. I was being a sponge and soaking up all the knowledge that flowed over me. There were some interesting questions being asked and some even more in the spirit of the session were asked openly to the group. All 70-80ish of us where sat around the outer edges of the room. I don’t really feel this was all that ideal and left some people not asking questions that they might have asked in a more cosy environment. The open talking was good, I just think some nice 20 people round tables would have been more conducive to open chatter about our problems and triumphs with the software.

All in all it was quite a good day and I’ll be improving our Confluence install and uptake because of it, and would definitely recommend any Atlassian products users to go along in the future.

I’ll quickly add a thank you to Oleg from Cisco who introduced me to Asahi beer after the conference.. thanks! Also that we missed the last Liverpool – London train home due to trusting the more sensibly sounding directions of a couple of local southern boys and walking quite a way away from Euston before realising in our peril we were about 250 yards from it when we asked! Getting home at 2:10 am, and into work at 8:50 show’s my dedication to the job 😉

Steve Daniels