OMAC (Word)Pressing on

It’s been a quiet few months on the Web Services blog but there’s been load going on behind slightly ajar doors! In December we launched the Online Marketing and Communications (OMAC) Project with five strands:

  • Site navigation, structure and homepage
  • Academic department websites
  • Marketing content
  • Student recruitment and conversion
  • Mobile and social media

Over the last four months we’ve made progress in each of these and I’ll highlight a few of them below.

Site navigation, structure and homepage

With over 200,000 page views and a quarter of site traffic, the Edge Hill homepage is the most important page on our site and it needs to reflect a broad range of activities and signpost diverse user groups to the information they’re looking for elsewhere on the site. Our current scrolling carousel homepage went live in January 2010 and has helped us produce some really striking designs and features but there’s more we can do with it. So our new design starts from scratch by looking at what needs to be there and how to best make use of the space.

Our new template design makes use of mega menus and fat footers to allow extra information to be displayed more clearly.  We’ve covered mega menus in detail before and recently launched mega menus within GO as a way of providing one click access to a huge range of content but fat footers are something new for us:

OMAC Footer

While URL structure will remain largely unchanged, improved top level and in-page navigation will raise the profile of academic sites significantly.

Academic department websites

We are currently in the process of deploying and testing a new way of managing departmental websites.  Long time readers will know that I’m not a fan of traditional content management systems but – as I mentioned at the end of my Anti-CMS talk – our approach to managing websites does have the potential to introduce bottlenecks to getting content online. Faculties and departments are making increasing use of the web a communication tool and we need to find better ways for them to get things online.

Our approach hasn’t been to bring in a monolithic, expensive enterprise CMS – I stand by my claim that they fail on a number of levels – but instead making use a tool that are easy to use for the types of content departments wish to publish. That tool is WordPress and you’re using it right now perhaps without even knowing it.

WordPress is best known as a blogging tool but in the last couple of years it has developed to be much more than that. It can now be used as a powerful content management system for relatively basic websites. While Edge Hill’s site certainly isn’t basic, individual department, faculty and centre sites are making them perfect for WordPress. The merging of WordPress MU (multi user) into the main product that probably the final piece in the jigsaw to allow easy hosting of multiple sites.

As I said, we’re currently configuring and integrating WordPress into our new site designs prior to letting content authors loose on it.

OMAC: Department of Magic

Technical solutions are only part of what we’re doing.  We’re also working with departments to review their content prior to migration to the new designs and make sure they’re doing as good a job as possible for their business needs. Relly Annett-Baker’s content inventory is a great aid to this and useful not just for reviewing sites now but on an ongoing basis.

WordPress will be available Real Soon Now with training available to those responsible for content ownership, editing and creation.  Departments can contact me now with start this process.

Marketing content

The new emphasis on department sites doesn’t mean we’re forgetting central areas of the site – these are getting lots of attention too.  Together with colleagues in corporate communications and student recruitment we’re reviewing and updating the Study, About and News sections of the site. Some changes are just a refresh while others are major new developments.  The current, rather out of date virtual tour will be replaced with a brand new interactive campus map allowing the user to explore the Ormskirk campus by building, department or facility with potential to tie all sorts of additional information into the map in future.

OMAC: Interactive Campus Map

Student recruitment and conversion

Earlier this month Student Recruitment launched Think Edge Hill, a new system for managing enquiries to the university.  This project comes under the OMAC umbrella with the current links being expanded to more deeply integrate with the new Study area of the external Edge Hill site.

Mobile and social media

The final strand is looking at how we make use of social media within the university and how it integrates with the website. We also hope to have a new mobile optimised website to go live at the same time as the new corporate template designs.

As you can see it’s been a busy few months with more to come before we go live in May. There’s lots more detail we can go into about the developments so leave a comment with what you’d like to know and we’ll follow up with further posts in the coming months.

6 replies on “OMAC (Word)Pressing on”

  1. Hi Brian,

    We’ve done quite a bit of customisation with plugins but just as much through our custom theme. I’m hoping to blog about these soon but it’ll probably not be before our new sites go live.

  2. Possibly not much – we’ll see how WordPress can cope with what we throw at it. It’s worth noting that custom apps – news, events, eProspectus etc – account for a large proportion of our site visits and so that’s not going to be going away any time soon.

  3. Our use of wordpress has been really positive and would be keen to work with you to develop this further.

  4. We have a ‘traditional’ enterprise CMS and on the whole it works really well for what we need to do with it, especially as we are attempting to move away from ‘department’ websites and organise our content more around the needs of the user.

    However, we still use WordPress for internal news and various other things and it is on the whole excellent and would never like to be without it. I would recommend using a caching plugin though as it can be quite resource hungry at peak times in my experience.

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