Information, Technology & Consulting

Web Services Launches Six New Sites

When landing on Dartmouth’s departmental websites, it’s easy to just visit, find the information you need, and give no further thought to how that information got there. But there’s actually a lot of teamwork that goes into building a site.

The Project

As part of Dartmouth's Website Redesign project, the College selected a new digital publishing system (also known as a content management system or CMS) and is in the process of transitioning from one system to another. The complete conversion requires moving 200 websites over the course of two years. According to Web Services Director Susan Lee, the project is “a huge overhaul of our web presence,” since each site must be completely cleaned up and rebuilt in the new system.

So far, Web Services has launched 16 of the 30 academic sites it manages, is working on five more, and hopes to move all academic sites into the new system by the end of fall term 2014. After that, the team will take on the College's various centers and administrative sites, of which there are over 100. Because of the length of migration, the Web Services team is performing a "visual refresh" on all assigned sites, including those awaiting transition, to improve appearance and make them mobile-friendly.

In March and April 2014, Web Services launched six new sites:

The Process

For each site they build, Web Services members meet with departmental faculty and staff to determine text and images and to plan how the site will be updated with new content once the initial build is complete.

The redesign process begins with a kick-off meeting in which the Web Services team explains the project to an academic department and provides guidance on the organizational structure (the information architecture, IA), for a new site. From there, the team adjusts the architecture, builds the site, and migrates the content from the old CMS to the new one. Several meetings take place, including an internal review within Web Services and consultations with the department. Once the entire team agrees a site is ready to launch, Web Services schedules a training session to show the department’s chosen site editors how to keep the site up to date.

Case Study

Like other Dartmouth site editors, Judy Danna, the sociology department’s administrator, was already managing web content for her department using the previous digital publishing system. At first, Danna says, it took a while to acquire the mindset for a new website, but she finds the new CMS “very dynamic” and more interactive than the old site editing process.

“The new website design provides opportunities for a more active presence from the site editor to keep it lively,” she says. “Realizing that now, I think this aspect is what makes it fun to work on. It’s satisfying to try to give the site lots of eye appeal, in terms of both attractive photographs and succinct wording that will hopefully have just enough information to grab the reader and make him or her want to explore the site more fully.”

For content changes in areas such as personnel, publications, research, and course offerings, Danna finds it important to update the information promptly.

“I ask the faculty at the start of each term to pass on any news that might be featured,” she says. Student worker Morgan Matthews checks the Dartmouth College website weekly for upcoming events that might be pertinent to the website’s readers, and Danna curates and posts them as appropriate.

Danna found the Web Services team enjoyable to work with.

“There was lots of communication throughout the process and good support,” she says. “In addition to all the behind-the-scenes development work invisible at our end and done by them, there were several onsite training sessions here with User Experience Designer Ben Morgan as lead. He explained things clearly, and was very patient and quick to answer follow-up emails. Content Strategist Sarah Maxell Crosby also made several site visits to the department. We also had contacts with Oliver Ghingold [Web Designer/Producer], Susan Lee [Director of Web Services] and Rick Nadler [Web Support Specialist]. Thanks to all for the hard work that made it happen!”

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