Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mega Menus for GO

For anybody reading this blog from outside Edge Hill, we have a staff and student portal called GO. GO is intended to eventually replace the current intranet.

Due the the vast nature of the internal information, we decided that the current top navigation bar just didn’t provide enough direct access to the services that staff and students need on a daily basis:

Old GO navigation bar

For a while we’ve been working on a mega menu solution. Mega menus are springing up everywhere and even Jacob Neilsen feels that they are a much better solution than previous drop down implementations.

There are three features in our mega menus worth mentioning.

1. The mega menu content.

There are two flavours of the mega menu, one for staff and one for students. External parties with access to go will not see a mega menu.

The main mega menu drops down when the GO logo or the A-Z link is rolled over. The left hand colomn has some current news stories, and these will eventually appear automatically (they’re currently added manually so if they go out of date, bear with us). The other links have been deemed to have the most value and the A-Z link is repeated in the bottom right hand corner. Go on click a few and see where you end up.

2. A-Z

We have also added an A-Z page and this should cover all wiki pages sites for whom the user has access together with a few other areas of Edge Hill’s online services. The A-Z is quite extensive so to enable easier access the A-Z has it’s own navigation. When one of the letters is clicked the items beginning with that letter are displayed and all others are greyed out making it easy to hone in the links you need.

3. Top Navigator choices (+/-)

You may have noticed a +/- button on the top navigator.  Initially all users are offered Mail, Library, Blackboard and Files on the top navigator.  As long as the user is in GO, thay can use the +/- button to open a choice box and select the 5 items they prefer.

There is scope to add further items in the future, but choices will be limited to 5 in order to keep the top navigator consistent.

The mega menus should also function in the docs. library and wiki domains.

Shorter URLs

QR Code for GORecently we successfully registered an additional domain name – ehu.ac.uk – for the University. Rather than simply using this as an additional alias for the main website addresses, we’re using it to provide a URL shortening service.

URL shortening services are nothing new – TinyURL was launched in 2002 – but while for years they were used to shorten web addresses in emails, with the advent of Twitter and its 140 character limits these services have gained new popularity.

These services do have some major problems however, notable, what happens if a service goes out of business either through running out of money or by the top level domain owner cancelling it? This has led many people to consider running their own service, and now that we have a nice short URL, we’re following suit.

We are using the popular YOURLS system, written in PHP with some custom plugins:

  • Lowercase URLs: we want short URLs to be case insensitive so that it doesn’t matter how people type them in
  • Top Level URLs keep their keyword for our main domain name, so www.edgehill.ac.uk/english maps to ehu.ac.uk/english
  • For our own domain names we add in Google Analytics campaign keywords allowing us to determine where traffic comes from
  • URLs can be modified to include a source with just three extra characters which is then passed through as a Google Analytics medium
  • QR codes are available for all short URLs by simply adding .qr to the keyword
  • Certain keywords relate to the type of content, for example undergraduate courses have been seeded with their UCAS code, e.g. ehu.ac.uk/g401 is BSc Computing

This service is currently in beta for use with the new prospectus but we’ll be making use of it further in the near future, for example exposing short URLs for pages within GO.

Let us know if you have any ideas for other things we can do with this service!