Reflections on Creating a New GSC Website

On March 5, 2013 by Grad Forum

On March 1st, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) Web Team released a brand new GSC website. But releasing the new site, even with content originating from the original GSC site, was not an overnight assignment. In fact, the Web Team began developing the project way back in October of 2012.

The website project was divided into three steps, or “milestones.” The first was philosophy. Nothing is worse than a website that is poorly planned, where each page seems to be living in its own universe of color and structure. In order to really nail down a clear design philosophy, the Web Team did a group activity called “Sails and Anchors.” The idea is simple: one considers a collection of one’s favorite and most-detested websites, and makes a list of concepts/features that make those sites so great or poor. Features (or rather, “blights”) that detract from a site are called “anchors,” and those which make a site wonderful are “sails.”

Key themes emerged from the collection of thoughts; the team now had a lucid sense of features we desired in the new site, and those we wished to avoid at all costs.

The next milestone was creation: that is, finding a site theme that satisfied the most sails and the least anchors from the first milestone. Fortunately the underlying web engine for the new site, called WordPress, has a plethora of themes created by contributors worldwide that can be used for free. The team ultimately chose the “Graphene” theme—what you see on the site today—as it satisfied three of our key sails: a high degree of backend customization, a spacious “well-furnished room” appearance, and a home-page “slideshow” where upcoming events can be showcased.

The last milestone was implementation: it was time to port over all content from the existing GSC site, revise it according to the design principles of the new site, and ensure that all the nitty-gritty things like links and attachments were working as they should. We also parsed through each section of the site and looked for where content or organisation could be simplified. After all, a simple site is pleasing to the user, and the least schizophrenic to manage in the back office.

The website has been well received. Former GSC President Wesley Whittaker noted: “The new site has much improved access, I really like it. The student organization section is a lot easier to navigate—this will make participation so much easier for both incoming students and those who have been around for longer.” He continued “I also like how, under the event section, there’s the links to facebook and doodles so that everything’s in one place and there’s a connected social media stream.”

The process of designing a website is never complete: there are still a few stray links, and a couple fonts that could use some polishing up. As well, the space for additional creativity, such as new extensions or enhancements to an existing site, is endless.

Stay tuned as the GSC Web Team works on new refinements and features for the site in the coming months. In the meantime, we hope our hard work through the past several months has resulted in a powerful new website that you enjoy using.

The website address is: http://sites.dartmouth.edu/gsc/

Web Team Members: Amanda Balboni, Julia Bradley-Cook, Rishika De, Lisa Jackson, Marie Onakomaiya, Justin Richardson, Nicholas Tito, Christine Urbanowicz

by Nicholas Tito, GSC Web Team Leader

 

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