Posted Monday, August 16, 2004 8:10:24 PM by Kim
In my new job I am going to be responsible for the overhaul of our entire school district's web presence. Not alone of course, since we are an incredibly large district (#11 in the US in terms of student population) and with a budget approaching $2 billion, we are in essence an enterprise-level organization. There are a lot of people who work on the site already, and many department web masters and mistresses who have overseen the growth of the district's web presence over the last 6 years or so.
So my job is a big one, and made more daunting by the way that the web site has grown organically, with little central control applied to the construction of individual department sites. Let's be brutally honest. It's an unholy mess, with dozens of different navigation methods and color schemes and varying page layouts. One part of the site might have a horizontal navigation while moving to the next department presents you with a vertical one. Go to another and there are drop-down menus while the next one might have Flash navigation. It's entirely possible that there are people lost in our web site. Poor souls who wandered in and can't find their way out, much less the information they were after.
This isn't to blame anyone for the state of things--it just is. The approach we have taken in the past is to purchase web design tools (Studio MX) for the department web masters and after some perfunctory training, set them loose with permissions to their folder on the site. No one really supervised their work, because no one was put in charge. As a result, the site grew organically, like something that was placed in the refrigerator a long time ago and then forgotten.
As I begin the design process, and probably equally importantly, the education process with my supervisor(s), part of what I'm trying to do is impart on them the absolute necessity for establishing standards on how pages should be built. Of course, there are the W3C standards in place, and much of what I'll be doing will be trying to insure that content is portable--able to move from one design to another without a major gutting and dissecting. Hopefully I can be an effective messenger and drive home the point that you simply can't have a positive user experience if your site looks more like a moldy lump of something that has grown on its own instead of a well thought out information system.
Category tags: Designing for the Web
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