The Sanity of a Unified Web Presence
"cas.psu.edu" before fall 2008
- 250 sites migrated to Plone since Fall 2008
- 75 percent of all Web pages now managed in Plone; percentage steadily increasing
- Number of domains reduced from 300 to 20
- More than 40 content providers actively managing site information
From 1996 to 2008, most of the Web sites in the College of Agricultural Sciences were created with essentially one aim: to get some information online.
With no overarching goal or cohesive strategy, the College's Web presence evolved into a disorganized collection of information that attempted the impossible: Equal representation of all internal stakeholders.
The result was that users did not get the information they needed in a way they could best use it.
Some of the Issues
- Most sites addressed internal stakeholders' preferences instead of target audiences' needs.
- Most sites fell short of meeting standards, policies, and recommended practices.
- Visual design and navigation varied widely from site to site, conveying an inconsistent identity and disorienting users.
- Separate domain names abounded, further fragmenting identity and adding to visitors' confusion.
- The main site domain, "cas.psu.edu" did little toward centrally branding the College as one focusing on agricultural sciences.
- A large percentage of content lived on static pages and was orphaned, out of date, and no longer relevant.
- Much content was posted in the form of pdfs and other problematic file formats.
Unified and User-Centered
Here's how Ag Sciences untangled its Web presence and developed a blueprint for better serving the College and end-users alike...
Along with consulting and training, WebLion's developers also create a range of products that extend Plone's functionality.
Weblion and Plone
- Sites formerly dispersed across multiple technologies and servers are now maintained in this one powerful, extensible, highly secure system.
- Content that once languished is now easily managed and shared.
- The Ag Sciences Web presence benefits from consistent design and navigation while maintaining departmental branding.
- WebLion's Hosting Service eliminates the need to maintain production Web servers supporting Plone within the College.
One-Stop Web Shop
Ag Sciences' Communications Group is comprised of Web and multimedia specialists, designers, marketing professionals, photographers, news coordinators, writers, and editors.
These experts team up with groups around the College to revitalize old sites and build new sites that are efficient, attractive, and usable. They also assist units and departments with strategies for leveraging the Social Web.
These services ensure quality and eliminate the need for individual departments and units to design and develop Web sites using their own with limited resources.
Best Practices for Content Owners
Centralizing has made it easier to establish guidelines for content and navigation:
- URL Standards and Page Naming Guidelines help keep Web addresses user-friendly.
- PDF Guidelines teach how to use these files appropriately.
- Social Media Best Practices help ensure responsible use of blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, and related tools.
Standards and Policies Help Everyone
Plone's built-in compliance, products and support from WebLion, and the collective expertise of Ag Sciences' Communications Group mean that all sites within agsci.psu.edu meet industry standards, recommended practices, and Penn State's AD-54 policy for accessibility, usability, and branding consistency.
These standards and policies all share the same goal: to make the Web accessible and usable for everyone and to promote a positive user experience. Compliance means Web content is readily available to all individuals within a target audience—and this contributes to excellent marketing.