During my 12 years at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, I oversaw the evolution of the institution’s public web presence from a small 50-page static website linked to disparate department pages to a complete institution-wide, 8,000+ page network of branded department and college sites within a single content management system. In that time, I wore the hats of designer, developer, project manager, and supervisor to a team of developers.
PRO-TIP: It was in this position that I learned the most important skill a web designer can acquire: Work in cooperation with your clients and respond to their needs. Nobody likes a know-it-all.
Below are the highlights of my work with UMW from 2001 – 2012.
Redesign for the James Monroe Center for Graduate and Professional Studies
The new adult education campus had a site that was not serving its needs and did not reflect the institutional branding. I worked with the faculty and administration to develop a new design and site architecture that would better align it with the Mary Washington brand while maintaining a distinctive brand of its own.
Migration to Macromedia Contribute and PHP site management tools
While other institutions were beginning to spend $50 – $100K on content management systems and consulting services to implement them, we put our heads together and developed a dynamic site management system that linked and managed hundreds of department sites managed in Macromedia Contribute for a price tag of $12K.
GEEK ALERT: This new system removed existing table-based layouts and was designed entirely using what was then new CSS2 positioning and semantic markup, allowing us to be forward-compatible for exports to future systems (which, as it turns out, was needed in 2011).
Mary Washington College becomes University of Mary Washington
On July 1, 2004, the new institution flag was raised by the president at a noon ceremony. Because we had migrated everything the year before to a centrally-managed system, our web team was able to update the entire network of sites to remove the Mary Washington College branding site-wide by the time everyone had returned to their desks.
A new design for upper level pages was created to present a cleaner, more text-based approach to the web presence, enhancing accessibility features and performance.
2010 – 20011
University re-organization and migration to WordPress Multi-Network
By 2010, the University reorganized once more. The College of Graduate and Professional Studies became the College of Education and the College of Business. The University hired a branding firm to rebrand the institution with a new tagline and positioning.
This was the largest undertaking to date, so I requested that we hire an outside consultant to do the redesign while I managed the project, determined the information architecture, and oversaw that the codebase could be extensible for us once we inherited management of the site.
Holding meetings with institution-wide constituencies over a period of a year, I developed project plan and wireframes, as well as a plan for how to host the site using the then-new WordPress Multi-Network platform.
The visual identity, colors, and fonts developed for the website by Convoy were then extended to printed collateral for admissions, billboards, and capital campaigns.
GEEK ALERT: I developed a PHP script that scraped each existing department site and its media turning it into an XML file for ingestion by WordPress, preserving the structure of each site. This enabled a one-click conversion for each site once the WordPress network was built. In addition, an mu-plugin was developed to handle the 301 redirects that resulted from expanding the site from one sub-domain to seven. We were able to launch everything in a day (NB – I will never do that again. The DNS caching issues across the internet caused massive confusion for a day or two. However, all was well in the end!).
In 2012, I was recruited by the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. [Read more…]