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:
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current news stories, and these will eventually appear automatically (they’re currently added manually so if they go out of date, bear with us).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.
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.
We’re very open about our web developments and always welcome feedback, particularly from our users, but we are naturally disappointed when we hear we’re not giving people what we want.
We arrived at the office this morning to the following comment on my blog post ‘Where to stop?!’ from an anonymous user:
Less buzzwords, more content. Give us something we can use; not look at. We’re (students) not bothered about blogs. We don’t care about tech news. We can get that from more important places. This is a university web site. Give us university content. Live access to our files in a decent way. E-mail from POP or ATOM. RSS feeds of our coursework updates and changes. Loose the Blackboard and Web CT and start giving us information that we need. We’re not looking at it, we’re using it.
Whilst the comment doesn’t explicity reference Go (our student portal) I assume that’s what it relates to and in response (as buzzword-less as I can make it) I’d like to highlight the following.
The Go portal is not a finished product/service indeed non of our Web Services are. Once we put something in the public domain we seek feedback from our users and we continually build/adapt/enhance it to ensure it’s doing what YOU want. University blogs are fairly new for us and at present we only have a number of bloggers within the community – so whilst the usefulness of these might not seem apparent right now the more our community grows the more interesting they’ll be for a wider group of people. In direct response to the user who added the comment I’d also like to add that you may say students aren’t interested in blogs – but then you did just read and comment on one! 😉
I completely take the point about more university content and can confirm this is what we are striving to add. There are plans to pull in feeds from WebCT/Blackboard and even direct from the Student Record System but these are third party systems so understandably adapting these to be accessible in the same way as our university resources is a little more time consuming – bear with us. New features will be added all the time. The overall aim of our services is to make everything more accessible and easier for you and not just within the Go portal we’ve developed. Longer term aims are to have our content pushed out so that our users can decided how/where they access it from. Again we’re working on these things so keep an eye on this blog to see where we’re at.
All of that said we are confident we are providing some great features already. The new version of Go is due to be rolled out fully later this month and it’ll give all students easier access to Mail, File Storage, Discussion, Community, Library and WebCT/Blackboard. Performing Arts students are already piloting new services which give them a bespoke (course specific) area which allows them to submit assignments, get module updates and notifications about their course. I would argue that the services we’re offering are purely about content and we look forward to building on them in the future.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t signal the return of Gordon the Gopher, we’ve just made some changes to the GO Portal. Yesterday we flicked the first switch in launching the all new GO. We’ve moved from iChain to Access Manager as the underlying SSO system. Access Manager has lots of improvements over iChain, but to people using it, it should be faster and more stable. I’m sure the chaps in Core Services will explain more about what they’ve done!
The first thing you’ll notice when logging in is a new login box. Logging in for the first time, GO will ask you for an email address. This is used if you ever need to reset your password so it needs to be a non @edgehill.ac.uk address which you can access even when you can’t log in to GO. It’s possible to skip this if you don’t have one.
And then you’re in… to the old version of GO! Yep, no sooner have we given you a taste of the swish new login boxes and self help systems do we shift you back to the current system. Well, not quite! We’re using the next few days to test the system under a bit of load so all logins are going through the new GO before being passed on to the old site. Early results look promising – the servers didn’t bat an eyelid when we switched and seem quite happy with the volume of users.
This also gives us the opportunity to open up testing to a wider audience. Staff will see there’s a new link on the navigation bar – New Go – so if you’re feeling inquisitive click through and see what’s new – you can switch back easily during the transition.
While a lot of the features are targeted towards students, I still think it’s an improvement on the current Staff GO. We’d love to hear feedback and suggestions for additional features – we’ve had lots from our beta testers (and thank you very much!) but feel free to send in more.
Some of the interesting features available include a web client version of go.talk, our Jabber-based IM system that we’ll also be pushing out to the desktop. There’s lots of ways of pulling in information from external sources such as Flickr, del.icio.us and YouTube – add the user ehunews to get get an instant TV channel of Edge Hill related news stories, or edgehilluni to get Jez’s film masterpieces!
For the students reading, don’t worry, your chance will come very soon to opt in to the new GO portal! If you’d like an early preview, leave a comment and we’ll sort you out with access.
P.S. Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! Aaaarrrrrgggghhhh!