I’m going to let you in on a little secret … creating a new website is not as easy as it looks. Particularly when you are creating a new website for the oldest and largest university in San Diego.
Our team recently launched the completely redesigned SDSU.edu after nearly a year of planning and development. That’s right, a year. There are committees to present to, and subcomittees to work through issues. There are lots of stakeholders, each of whom needs to be heard and needs the opportunity to give input. All told, more than 30 people had the opportunity to give direct input on this project. And that was before it even went into development.
One of the greatest challenges is that there are so many good ideas, and so many great examples we have seen, that it’s impossible to incorporate them all, for a variety of reasons. As some of you may know, as a public university, we are required to maintain accessibility in our online presence. That means we are limited somewhat in the technologies we use, like Flash. So we had to find ways to do some cool things, while being accessible.
Fortunately, we have a pretty sophisticated Content Management System already in place to produce SDSU NewsCenter. The CMS is built to comply with accessibility standards. So our developer, DreamBox, just built on what we already had. Once we got the functionality doing what we wanted it to do, we came up with a design that everyone liked, and navigation that prioritized the most important links right up front, while not losing all the other links that are also very important.
Since the new site is being hosted on the same server we use for SDSU NewsCenter, the next step was to ensure that when we pressed the button and launched the site, the server wouldn’t shut down from all the traffic. Fortunately, one of the benefits of working at a university is you are surrounded by really smart people. Get a bunch of them in a room together and you’re bound to come up with a solution, which we did.
The experts in our University Computer Operations office came up with a plan to “scrape” our site, which is, in essence, taking a snapshot of the code every 15 minutes and creating a mirror site on a larger server. You techies out there might not think it’s a big deal. But to me, it’s a pretty amazing solution. Works like a charm.
And now we have a website that is both form and function. It’s got all the resources a visitor might need, from admissions information to career opportunities, to news and events. And it tells the university’s stories in an interesting and dynamic way.
So while it’s been a year in the works, we think it’s been worth the wait. Let us know what you think. Enjoy!