Within the College of Arts and Sciences, academic departments’ websites are designed by eTech, according to a plan that gives each department 8–10 weeks of our design, editorial, and development services. We work with each department to identify and address areas of need, then develop navigation, design, and sometimes special features to better serve the department and its constituents. At the end of the 8–10 weeks, the site will be launched and its upkeep will be turned over to the department.
Initial meeting: A few weeks before your production period begins, a member of our staff will email the department chair to set up a meeting. The department chair and committee (if the department choses to create one) will meet with the eTech web services team to talk about the process, dates, deadlines, photos, and the department’s needs. Between this meeting and the materials deadline, the department must select one contact person for eTech, typically the chair, the current webmaster, or a member of the office staff.
Photography: When possible, eTech begins scheduling photos of the department’s faculty, staff, facilities, classes, and activities sometime between the initial meeting and the start of production. This process tends to extend well into the production period, though it’s best to start early, especially when production on the site occurs when the campus is either empty or unattractive. (We can also take photos after launch, though each department enjoys scheduling priority only before the production period ends.) Any photography the department already has should be submitted via UA Box on or before the materials deadline.
Materials deadline: Two weeks before production starts, the department’s contact person will verify that the site’s existing content has been updated and send any new, text-based content to eTech’s editorial lead, who will review these materials and ask questions about any omissions or problems. (This begins the question-answer process that will continue throughout the production period.)
Production: eTech’s web team will design and develop the new site piece by piece. As we finish each major piece — such as the home page, the directory, a faculty bookshelf, landing pages for academic programs, etc. — we will email a link to the department for review. The email will include a list of elements to review, a list of elements to ignore, and a deadline for sending feedback to eTech.
Launch: The new website will launch at the end of the eighth or 10th week of the production cycle.
Training and user accounts: All faculty, staff, and students who need editing access to any A&S website must complete the A&S Web Accessibility Course prior to receiving their WordPress training and user accounts from eTech. This training can be done at any time. As soon after launch as is convenient for you, contact eTech to set up a training session for the folks who will be updating your new website. This is often a faculty member or the chair, but just as often it’s a member of the office staff. Most departments designate at least two people to serve as content administrators.
Post-launch support: Although eTech doesn’t have the resources to make every desired change to every website it builds, we are happy to answer questions and help out with more complicated tasks throughout the life of your website. We can even conduct refresher training, should you want to give access to additional faculty or staff.
Before We Meet
Between the initial email and the initial meeting, please take these steps so that we can complete your website’s redesign during the allotted 8- or 10-week timeframe:
- Determine who in your department needs to be involved. Although it’s up to you how many people you include in the process, we recommend a committee of no more than three people, one of whom must be the chair. If your department has more people keen on giving input, we suggest that you devote a department meeting to talking about your current website and making a list of desired features for the new site. If those faculty and staff want to stay involved, you can show them the site components we send throughout the process — with the understanding that final say rests with that small committee.
- Figure out who’s in charge. We can’t build a website around opinions — we need decisions. Make sure it’s absolutely clear across your department (and within your committee) which single individual gets the deciding vote in any design or organization decisions that need to be made.
- Designate a contact person. We’ve found that these projects go much more quickly and smoothly when only one person works directly with eTech.
- Review the content on your site. The College of Arts and Sciences requires certain information in its departments’ websites. You probably already have most if not all of this information, but please read the complete list.) Focus on updating that information first, then work your way through everything else that’s important enough to keep.
- Think about photos. Getting good photos is often the most challenging part of building a website. Some academic disciplines are inherently photogenic; others take some planning and effort. Determining what’s photogenic and what’s not can be difficult for people inside the department — they’re too close to the subject matter — but every field has something visual to offer. We ask that you work with us and our photographers to help us find what’s special and visually interesting about yours.
Because the production periods run back-to-back, with no break between projects, each department gets a website redesign roughly every four to five years. Departments that want to redesign their sites before their turn comes up may contact eTech to discuss options. We can’t let anyone cut the line, but we can help you work with your existing WordPress theme or offer a theme upgrade with limited design and editorial services. The queue won’t be changed.