During the week of April 8, the university will implement a "soft launch" of its updated website home page and several others, making use of a comprehensive suite of brand-driven design templates, and a completely reconfigured content management system.
The nearly year-old initiative, led by university communications and marketing, with support from IT staff members, campus communicators and Web Advisory Committee members, will be rolled out in phases following the initial soft launch.
Among behind-the-scenes work that support the new pages are:
• the development of information architecture models based on national research findings and analysis of best practices
• design testing
• extensive work with our pilot site partners to develop university-wide templates – with Enrollment Management as an administrative site and School of Creative Arts (SCA) as an academic site
• the complete reconfiguration of the content management system (CMS) to provide extensive flexibility for units across campus in a supported web-authoring environment
• the creation of resources, tools, and a training program for rolling out the CMS across campus in a systematic way
Newly developed infrastructure includes templates for primary and sub-pages, extensive training in the new CMS, various widgets to allow different types of functionality, a web style guide and search engine optimization features, a better directory and a much more robust analytics capability. The soft launch will make the most of these features in determining future priorities and updates to design.
The UCM blog, www.MiamiOH.edu/fixingtheweb, contains much information about the web roll-out, preparation, project documents, tips, resources, a link for feedback and a link to subscribe to the blog. It is recommend that interested faculty and staff follow the blog to keep up with progress.
A comprehensive roll-out plan for subsequent pages will begin in July, with prioritizing of areas based on several factors:
1. The needs of prospective students
2. How visible the site is/where it is positioned from the homepage
3. Whether site owners already have the staff/resources in place to do the work; if so, have they taken initiative to migrate?
4. How old the current site is (and if we will no longer support its format)
5. How many pages the site contains
6. Complexity of the site (will it require special functionality, or simple conversion of existing content?)
7. Whether the site’s primary audiences are external or internal
Beginning in July, bi-weekly training workshops will offer lessons on:
a. How to prepare images for migration (sizes, formats, etc.)
b. What kind of modules/widgets will be available
c. How to use the newly launched site templates to begin preparing your content
d. How to prepare videos for launch
e. Guidelines for writing for the web and creating SEO (search engine optimization)-friendly content
f. How to ensure site content complies with ADA accessibility guidelines
University communications web developers advise that content migration is time-consuming and requires a dedicated, page-by-page effort. However, other universities that have recently gone through this process report that once content is migrated, it is much easier to focus on strategy, embrace new trends to keep sites fresh and exciting, and implement day-to-day maintenance.
Relatedly, it is important to not build or copy new CMS templates into departments' current sites – it is much better to simply update the current content on the sites using the existing Miami headers with the appropriate logo and colors. Trying to “retrofit” new Cascade CMS templates to current content without first migrating into the new system will only create further complexities and delays down the road, and UCM and IT cannot support technology issues that might occur in the attempt.