Wayne State Web Team

Wayne State University Web Team Blog

Pruning the Web tree, making room for new things

Hugh Macleod- All good ideas must dieOver the past dozen years a bit of dust has collected on the Web here at Wayne State. The end of the year is a good time to do some pruning and focus on the tools that will impact our students, community and alumni in 2013. Over 500 websites have been moved into the university CMS, each with a reduction of pages, files and images. In addition, we have been creating a number of centralized tools to assist with this transition. Some of these tools have had a great adoption and continue to be used and expanded today. But others haven't had the same rate of adoption or the same result can be accomplished using a different tool.

# What does this mean?

From time to time it's necessary to prune the loose ends of a tree to allow the trunk and healthy branches to grow stronger. It's these healthy branches that push the department higher, toward a more abundant sun, that helps everyone.

We'll be pruning a few things in the Web Communications department:

# Moving beyond physical Web servers.

We'll be moving to a complete VM environment which can grow and shrink as needed.

# Removing the domain silos.

We will no longer, for all practical purposes, be creating a new subdomain (http://*.wayne.edu/) for every site at the university. Instead we will be migrating almost all sites to the http://wayne.edu/* construct. Of course there will be exceptions, schools/colleges, centers/institutes and others may still be hosted off the main domain but all recruitment, retention and main university sites will eventually be part of one single university website. Existing subdomains will always work, we will create permanent redirects.

# Deprecation of the wayne.edu/* URL shortener.

The go.wayne.edu URL shortener will be recommended and used long term. Because Twitter now wraps all URL's in their t.co domain, we no longer need to be concerned about having the shortest URL possible. All old URL's will still continue to function.

# All photo galleries in the CMS will be migrated to Flickr.

There is no longer a need for us to maintain a photo upload and view service when the university is already using Flickr's solid and far more supported platform.

# All university videos will be hosted exclusively on YouTube.

We have a handful of locally hosted videos with custom Flash players embedded across the Web. It's time to retire these and let YouTube handle the hosting and serving. Like Flickr, YouTube has a more robust toolset that will serve out users far better than we can.

# Moving Today@Wayne website/email management to the Public Relations team.

The PR team is in a great position to take over the promotion and coordination of the university's daily internal newsletter. It will be in good hands.

# CD/DVD duplication no longer offered.

It's a little known fact but the Web group has offered the service of printing on and duplicating CDs/DVDs. There is no need to worry if you're just learning about it now because we will no longer be offering this service.

# All forms we create will be through Formy.

Because we have created such a flexible self-service form creator, the need to hand create forms is reduced to almost nothing. All forms moving forward, with a few exceptions, will be created in and use Formy. C&IT will be introducing an extension to Formy, dubbed "Informy", in the coming months which will greatly expand the power of these forms.

# Why do this?

As Hugh MacLeod (opens new window) has illustrated above, these things are not being pruned because they aren't good or don't work, it's because they're not great.  With limited time and resources our group is always re-focusing to ensure we are making the largest possible impact on the university. To do this we need to spot spending time on the "good" in order to make "great" things.

This pruning lets in new light where it wasn't able to shine before and opens up opportunities for us to work on:

  • Complete the re-structure of wayne.edu. Something we need dedicated time to do right.
  • Change how our Web projects are run. Our current process isn't easily adapted for the responsive Web.
  • Change our social dashboard into a product called "Socialy" for the entire campus to use.

While it was a hard decision to cut things in the end this is the only way for us to explore uncharted territory.