Before any work begins on the actual construction of the site, it is very important to stop and think about the information the site will contain.
Take a moment to consider the answers to the following questions:
The answers to these questions should influence the type of information that you will want to put on your website. For example, if you are an academic department it is likely that prospective students interested in learning about your programs will encounter your website and wish to get an impression on not only what courses you have to offer but what life is like for a student of your department in a more general sense. To anticipate the needs of such visitors, you may wish to include information about student and professional organizations and student testimonials.
It would be helpful to talk to your current students and ask them what information they were looking for when they were considering your program and if they were able to find it. You could also ask them if they have any specific informational needs now as current students that could be satisfied by your department’s website.
The final question on the list, “How much time will we have to keep our site updated,” is often overlooked but is perhaps one of the most important questions to consider. Given the limited staff, resources and time that every department must juggle, it is a given that some of them will have more time to dedicate to maintaining a website than others. If keeping an updated Web presence is a high priority for your Department, then a section that highlights news and events sponsored by the department would be an excellent addition. The important thing to consider is that such a section would be refreshed with new content at least weekly. Anything less frequent and the site would seem stale and forgotten.
If you do not have the resources to update your site very often, then it would be best to only include the most general information and to not have a News or Events section at all. On the Web it is better to have no information than to have stale or outdated information.
Once you have considered the likely audience of your website and the information you think they will find relevant it is time to design what’s called the “information architecture” for the site. “Information architecture” is a fancy way of describing a basic concept; the information architecture of your site is simply what the pages of the site are called and how they link together.
One common way to define these relationships is through the use of an outline. The top level of the outline (indicated here by roman numerals) indicates the most important links of your site that will appear on your site's home page. Items that are nested beneath these elements indicate pages that link from the page in the previous level of the outline. For example, here is a partial outline of the Department of Biology’s website:
In this example, there is a link to a “Courses” page on the home page, so it is at the top of the outline. Then, on the “Courses” page there is a link to Biology Core Courses, Biology Option Courses, etc., which are a step below “Courses” in the outline because they are linked from the courses page.
Note that any of the pages in the top level of the outline (the roman numerals) will always be available to visitors via the navigation bar on every page.
Common pages for most departments are a “Contact Us” page, with campus mail, telephone, email and fax information for your department. Also, a list of profiles and contact information for the staff of the department is a helpful resource for most visitors.
Once you’ve completed the outline of your site, please email it to the office of Web Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will review the outline and give you feedback on the site’s proposed structure. Usually, feedback turnaround will be on the same or next day.
After any changes or additions have been made to the site’s outline, it’s time for the next step.
Due to the increasingly high demand for web development at Southeast, the Office of Web Communications is required to focus primarily on design, structure, and usability when developing new websites. We are therefore unable to vet all content, links, and materials provided during the development process. For this reason it is vital that your department take the time to properly review and revise your content for grammatical, functional and factual accuracybefore submission to our office for development.
Once you have settled on the complete outline of the information your site will need to contain, you can begin the work of writing its content. This process is relatively straightforward. You have the general “skeleton” of your site and know, basically, what each page needs to contain. So then comes the grunt work of actually writing the text that you would like to see on each page.
It is a standing goal for Southeast’s Web presence to avoid any pages that are built but have no content; for example, pages that say things like “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon.” They are a frustration for users and do not reflect well on the University’s ability to manage and update its Web content.
In order to avoid pages like these, Web Communications will not begin building a department’s website until it has received content for every page of the site. “Content” here simply means the actual text, images and media that will be available on the final site.
For this reason it is important that the department write or edit and consolidate all of the content for the new website in OmniUpdate. Given the amount of content that some departments need to post on their sites, it is acceptable to develop short paragraphs or other abbreviated pieces of content for certain pages on the site and then expand upon those after the site has been built; the important thing is to make sure that each page has a relevant piece of information for your visitors.
For ideas on typical pieces of information that users might expect from your site, please read our guide to composing your website.
Below are some important things to consider while developing the content of your site.
This is a very important step! As you write your site's content it is easiest to work in Word documents. Usually we recommend making a separate word document for each page, which makes it easy to keep content organized and reduces the amount of time needed to look around in one file for a relevant piece of information. Use the outline structure of your site as a guideline in how you organize your word documents, so that if you have several sections with a couple layers underneath your home page, each page that branches off into their own section would get a folder. Providing a comprehensive, well-developed outline is the best way to ensure your website is built in the fastest and most efficient manner possible. For example:
The University uses AP Style for the Web and other official publications. You can find an abridged style guide relevant to University units online. This guide includes information on how to use abbreviations, dates, official building names, personnel names, and many more terms. Please take a look to make sure that the copy you are writing is consistent with this established style.
If you’re not sure exactly how to pen each sentence, we can help. Tonya Wells, Assistant Director of Marketing & University Relations, is available to assist departments with writing and organizing information for their websites, providing they are making the transition into Open Text or are interested in updating a site in the Open Text system. Feel free to email her at email@example.com to talk about how you might best communicate the information your users need.
Given the length of time it takes to build a site, there will usually need to be edits or updates made to the content of the new site between when it is submitted for construction and when Web Communications is finished building it. It is a good idea when writing your content to avoid pieces of date-specific information, as that can always be added after your new site is public.
Portraits are required for faculty and staff profiles, but if a faculty or staff member does not wish to have their photograph online then Web Communications can use a placeholder image instead. To have portraits taken of faculty and staff members, or to schedule general photo shoots for the various pages of your site, you can contact Photographer Marcus Painton (firstname.lastname@example.org). He has access to professional camera equipment and can produce some excellent photographs of your staff and department in action. Photos are also desired (but not mandatory) on most other pages.
Once you have completed gathering your content, please burn all of it onto a CD or save all of it onto a USB drive and send it via Campus Mail to:
Marketing & University Relations
Wehking Alumni Center, MS 7300
Also, please send an email to email@example.com letting us know that we should expect the information for your website shortly. Once we have received the content for your site, we will let you know and put it in our queue to build it. You’re ready for the next step.
Some departments are satisfied with the organization and information in the website they already have, they simply need help moving the information into the Open text system. If this is the case for your department, follow the steps below:
So you have submitted your content to Web Communications. Now what do you do? The short answer is: nothing! Not for a bit, anyway.
Once we receive your content, we will send you a message letting you know that we have received it and have put it in our queue to be built. As Web Communications handles the construction and working-order of all sites in Open Text Content Management System, we usually have a pretty full plate and won’t be able to tackle new projects right away. But barring extraordinary circumstances we will build sites in the order in which we receive them.
The time it takes to complete a site is highly dependant on a wide variety of factors and circumstances. Factors related to the site itself include the size of the site (volume of pages) and how complex it is (do you need email forms or other special components?). The external circumstances include the length of our project list, working order of software and equipment, intensity of daily maintenance & support requests, and any emergency/special projects that might have priority during a given week.
An average turn around time for a departmental site pages can be 4-6 weeks depending on the factors mentioned above. Department sites that are extraordinarily large or complex (50+ pages) will require extra time.
Web Communications may be in contact with you during the construction process to clarify issues that arise as we work on the site. If not, we will contact you once the initial construction of the site is complete, and you will be ready for the next step.
You’ve received an email from Web Communications saying that your website is finished! It is almost time to unleash its glory to the world…but not quite yet. There are still a few things left to take care of.
While building your site, Web Communications will do our best to make sure we get everything right. But that doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect after we have made the initial build. As we review the content we might make some adjustments from your original outline to organize information a little differently or place links in an order different from what you had envisioned. Or, you might have realized after you submitted the content that there was another whole section that should have been included. Or maybe you noticed a misspelled word or a broken link in your provided copy.
Anticipating such discrepancies necessitates a review of the new website by you and your department. We will send you the site’s new address, which is still not considered “public” as it has not been announced to anyone yet.
When all the final checking from both parties has gone through, your site is finally ready to be available to the masses! Continue on to the final step for publishing.
When all of the revisions edits are complete and you have performed a final accuracy check for the content of your site, it is time to reveal the site to the public. Contact Web Communications and let us know that your site is ready to "go live” and we will do the rest.
The steps taken to “launch” your site are as follows:
That’s everything! While there’s no denying that the process of building a website is a lot of work, it is a valuable investment to make sure that you are able to easily communicate with the audiences served by your department and offer them the information they need.