Two months ago, the college launched its new website, capping more than a year of work on site architecture, navigation, design, content development, and training, culminating in an intense five-week period this summer during which the web team built out more than 1,200 pages of content in the new content management system before launch.
We knew the launch date would be only a milestone, not the finish line for this project. And we knew, from our colleagues at other colleges who have undertaken similar, once-in-a-decade reinventions of their sites, that the year following launch would be one of continued intense work, learning, and adjustment.
The web team has trained and is supporting 60 site editors across campus, each responsible for creating and updating content for a particular area. All updates made by the editors must be reviewed for technical or formatting problems by a member of the web team before they go live on the site. This is a simple matter of quality control and good site maintenance. The web team works through the inbox of pending updates twice a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon.
There’s an open lab for all site editors every Wednesday, 2-4 p.m., to which they can bring questions, problems, etc. These have been going on since early summer. Earlier this month, a second open lab was added, specifically for the academic department editors, every Friday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. The editors can (and do) also call the web team throughout the week with questions.
One concern the editors have raised is that, as their number has grown from less than 40 early on to 60 today, they sometimes experience delays logging into the content management system. We will be addressing that problem shortly by doubling our number of site licenses for the CMS.
Parts of the old site that were built on their own distinct templates and therefore did not need to migrate before launch – like career services, the writing center, and the libraries – remain as they were and now live on the www3.wooster.edu server, where they are linked from the relevant pages of the new site. Those areas will be re-architected and migrated into the new templates as we go forward. The libraries, for instance, will transition next summer.
In the meantime, sites now on the www3 server, including homegrown academic department and student organization sites, and personal pages, can still be accessed and updated by the same people using the same methods as before the new site launched.
The sheer volume of demands placed on the web team in these first two months has exceeded our pre-launch expectations. So we are in the process of hiring additional students in our group — to give us a total of 60 hours per week — to handle routine tasks, like image processing, posting PDFs, text formatting issues, basic Q and A, and small project work, that will free up more of the web team’s time for higher priorities, including video and multimedia content development, social media strategies, and consulting with individual departments on how to optimize their content for the web. We’re also looking at other possibilities for further beefing up our user support and content development capabilities.
One question that’s been raised on the academic side of the house is how the college intends to handle digital scholarship – essentially, work that a faculty member creates and self-publishes on the web. Because we can’t guarantee that the Wooster website won’t undergo another major rebuild in five years, we can’t guarantee that a URL for a piece of faculty scholarship will remain immutable, any more than a publisher can guarantee a book will always remain in print. This is obviously an issue of great importance to faculty, so we will be getting together with Heather FitzGibbon from the provost’s office and Matt Gardzina from instructional technology to work out a solution that makes sense for all concerned.
A website is always a work in progress. Wooster’s new site provides a stable, robust platform and a set of new, more powerful tools with which to build and innovate on that platform. It is a huge step forward from where we were, but it is only a first step. As we continue the journey forward, and especially over the next 12 months, we will need your support, your ideas, and yes, your patience.