Shoreline Community College is about to give its Web site a new look, but before the world gets to see, you can take a peek.
“This is just the first step in what will be an ongoing effort to improve our online presence,” said Gary Kalbfleisch, director of Technology Support Services. “Before going live on Oct. 7, we’d like to have the campus take a look and tell us what they think.”
To see the new site, go to http://new.shoreline.edu, Kalbfleisch said. To provide feedback, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The site is more than just a new look, it is a new concept and built on new technology,” Kalbfleisch said. “We know there is much more to be done, but the new site provides the foundation for the work to come. We’re happy to hear any and all feedback, but right now we’re most interested in errors, omissions, dead links, wrong phone numbers and things like that.”
The new site is the result of 18 months of work by the Web Work Group, headed by Kalbfleisch. The group included others from TSS, the Office of Advancement, the Library Media and Technology Center, International Programs and Enrollment Services. Focus groups, open-house sessions and other outreach efforts helped form the look and concept of the site.
Jim Hills, a member of the work group from the Office of Advancement, outlined the the concept for the new site.
“One of the basic tenets was from Gary that, whenever possible, we be data driven in our decisions,” Hills said. “That helped focus the home page, which is designed first and foremost to answer the questions a new student might have. We know from usage data that our current students go right to the Current Students page or other pages that they regularly use, not the home page.”
Hills said the group also wanted to use plain language to frame the questions: “After talking with students, it was clear that in deciding to come here, they wanted to know three things: What classes are there, how much does it cost and how to get started. The new home page reflects those sentiments.”
The new site is not yet a total reworking, but the new home-page questions did require new transition pages as a tie to the existing site content. The work group created three new pages to provide that function.
“We wanted a different look and more focused home page, but we also knew we didn’t have time to rebuild the entire site,” Hills said. “The approach we took allows us to launch and then continue to work on the underlying pages.”
However, work on some pages has already occurred and more are in progress. For example:
- Chris Taylor, of Enrollment Services and a member of the work group, headed an effort to streamline the information of many of the pages related to Student Success. The result is less redundancy and cleaner flow through that portion of the site.
- Betsey Barnett and other the Intra American Studies faculty members are reworking the IAS pages, applying the same student-centric and plain-language approach used on the home page.
As for the underlying technology, the site is built using Microsoft’s SharePoint Designer application. The software is the next generation from Microsoft’s FrontPage, but it also allows the site to eventually move to the full SharePoint application, an integrated content management system.
Making the change also involved renaming every page on the site with a .aspx designation, a chore that fell primarily to Shoreline Community College webmaster David Holmes. While tedious, the work did two important things: first, all pages on the site can now be seen by Google searches, and, second, Holmes found lots of dead wood on the site.
“The entire site is now probably 20-25 percent leaner,” Holmes said. “That’s through a combination of dead pages and cleaner code.” Holmes said that while Word documents can still be used, SharePoint Designer strips away much of the cumbersome Word coding, making the site’s code cleaner with faster response for the user.
SharePoint Designer also allows for page templates and style sheets when pages need changes or new pages added.
“This is an important feature for a few reasons,” Hills said.
“First, consistency in look, layout and tools is really important for the user experience. If someone is spending any time on our site, having the navigation bars, side rails and other features look and work the same page to page just makes it an easier, more pleasurable experience.
“Second, our look is our brand. If a user clicks on a page and it no longer looks like us, that doesn’t reinforce the Shoreline Community College brand and experience.
“Third, it allows easier updating by those on campus with the responsibility and access to make changes.”
A uniform look doesn’t mean that creativity and thought isn’t required when updating or creating pages, Hills said.
“The look says, ‘you’re at SCC,’ but that’s all,” Hills said. “The creativity comes in the words and images we choose to use along with the look. It’s not only in what we choose, but what we don’t choose.”
One of the key features of the new home page is a Google-powered search function.
“We had come to rely on work-arounds like Quick Links because our search function was not robust,” Kalbfleisch said. “Now, with the Google search function, you get our bookstore page when you search for ‘bookstore.’”
So, what’s next?
“There’s lots left to do on the main site, but as soon as possible, I’d like the work group to take a look at our Intranet,” Kalbfleisch said. “It needs some help.”