May 13, 2008 Webmasters Committee Meeting Minutes
Present: Jill Lenz, Merry Wright, Sallie Varner, Tom Harmon,
Don Zimmerman (Tech Journalism), Erin Napier, Charlie Kerlee, Carol Borchert (Contracted College writer/editor),
Judea Franck - VTH development, Larry Cobb - Computer Resources Group
Jill Lenz, Chair, started the meeting at 9:11 am
1) Larry Cobb will be our guest to talk about and answer questions regarding the outside
contractors who were recently awarded the bid to develop the external website.
Larry explained that Jill has joined the CRG group and her duties will shift a little. Part of the reason Dr. Zimmerman has been working with the college is to characterize how the college’s websites appear to the public and how that can be improved on. Jill has been working with him and will continue to do so as well as with the outside 3rd party vendor to revamp the CVMBS website, at least from the college’s level. Square I is the vendor, and the main reason for hiring a 3rd party is because CRG doesn’t have the man power to accomplish all the programming changes. This company is already doing some programming projects for D Lab so we are just expanding our relationship with them with regard to external programming. All of the details still need to be worked out and Jill’s role will be as a liaison between the external group and the CRG.
Larry said his understanding is that the redesign project is predominantly the college site and how that comes down to the departments is uncertain at this time.
2) Don Zimmerman’s (our usability expert) and Jill’s roles with Square I.
Judea Franck asked - What is the goal/purpose of the college website?
Who is the audience? How are these questions being approached?
Jill responded that it is evolving as a marketing/recruiting tool and the audience varies
depending upon who is asked.
Dr. Zimmerman said the original focus, requested by Dr. Blehm, was potential undergraduates and
current students and the faculty.
He explained that target audiences are varied. In today’s media environment, there is a massive
segmentation of users/readers/stakeholders. Each group uses a website differently and has
different information needs and that complicates any communication product when it’s supposed to
With a website, if it can segmented so a user gets into the appropriate part, there are
programming issues, such as duplication, to consider. Dr. Zimmerman explained that early
research showed users are very visual and if the same pictures are used in various places,
it confuses them.
He explained the ‘card sorting’ process as an information organization tool. Most organizations
are so large that it’s critical for their websites to have a rigorous search engine due to the
complexity of the information. Users don’t know what terms to search for so a content management
system helps with consistency in naming information and organizing it.
Dr. Zimmerman found that information presentation is not consistent across the CVMBS
departments because each one has some different programs. However, he found commonalities as
well and as much as possible, for outside users, we need to focus on commonalities to make
navigation easier for outside users.
Larry Cobb asked what constituted commonality. Dr. Zimmerman said items such as faculty
listings, types of degrees offered, students organizations–those kinds of things.
He explained that the fundamental problem, from the user’s perspective, is navigation and what terms the designers used.
How do you classify and organize this information? This is a common problem that scientists and society have dealt with for decades.
However, consistency is user friendly. That’s where the content management system comes in.
It’s a mechanism that helps enforce consistency.
Larry Cobb commented that the webmaster committee might act as a reviewer of the content
management system itself and give feedback about the design and interactive capability and
Jill and Dr. Zimmerman could potentially make policy decisions about the system and make
recommendations to a policy setting committee.
There’s another reason for content management systems – they help with efficiency – it’s not
necessary to write the HTML code to format the content - the format is pre-existing.
Dr. Zimmerman explained another part of his role was to identify any research based
guidelines that help identify what works best with respect to site design.
For example, research demonstrates that 55-60 characters wide in a column maximizes the ease of
comprehension and vertical lists are easier to scan and comprehend.
Dr. Zimmerman mentioned the website www.usability.gov
as a valuable source of information on all aspects of design and usability.
Jill asked Dr. Zimmerman to explain their progress in redesigning the information flow based on the card sorting results and Carol Borchert’s role in providing content.
Jill has a program called Mind Map that lays out the data flow on a website. Using this software, they have built a
prototype of how the new site might flow. Dr. Zimmerman has put together a
brief initial specifications document.
Erin expressed concern about the limits of a content management system regarding internal web pages and
department goals. MIP has goals for internal pages related to forms, etc. that a content
management system might limit and they don’t want that situation. Dr. Zimmerman said this is
a different set of issues. He expressed some uncertainty about the magnitude of the project as
there isn’t any clear directive from the Dean’s office about the breadth/depth of the
Larry Cobb commented that this project is for public facing information, so there might be a
split that happens between external audience and internal audience.
Judea Franck said that it seems the research polled one type of audience and with respect
to the hospital, it wasn’t really an external audience. She asked if there would be an
opportunity to look at how John Q. Public would use the site.
Carol Borchert offered an answer by saying if we set up a website for potential audiences based
on the information each group would look for, the CVMBS main page would almost become a super
site for the college, with very clearly marked entry points to further information, very easily
navigable for our different audiences. Beneath that, departments would have more flexibility.
Dr. Zimmerman explained that a redesign project is a long term process, with many steps and he
thinks we need clearer instructions from management about the results they hope to achieve.
Tom Harmon asked if there was any time frame for getting into production with the content
management system. Larry Cobb said he would meet with Thom Hadley in 2 days and expected more
information at that meeting.
Carol Borchert explained her role working with Jill to refresh the look of the current college
home page while the major work is planned. One of those things is a calendar tied to the
University’s calendar, which will be launched this week. CVMBS members can submit events to
the college calendar and they will be reflected in the University calendar. Carol will also
develop some style and editorial guidelines for the college.
Due to lack of time we will table our look at the Webmaster committee’s charge as originally
written in 1997.
A note about the June meeting: The
meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 24 at the same time and same location (9 am in EH 120), instead of the regularly
scheduled June 10 and July 8 meetings.
Meeting adjourned at 10:16 am.
Minutes submitted by Merry Wright.
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