If you’ve been hanging around the Computer Services Help Desk’s website lately (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) you will have noticed some big changes to its look. According to Matthew Stublefield, the Lab Support Administrator, the previous website was designed in 2008 and then updated in 2010. Obviously, hitting 2014, the website was getting dated, and as Matthew says, “We wanted something that was brighter, more vibrant, and that could handle images and video better, as well as highlight some of the exciting work we do.” There were also needs for a modern site that the previous site couldn’t support, like a way to show updates about the University’s network status apart from the way that blog posts are shown. With the new website, we can enter important information into a bar that will only show up if there is crucial information to disseminate. (This bar will function in a similar manner to the one that shows up on MSU’s home page if the university is closed due to weather.)
In addition, the new website also has a System Status box on the front page for important but not critical information. That section is fed by Twitter, so even if the University’s internet connection goes down, or the administrators are off-campus and can’t get to a computer they can make a post to Twitter which will be picked up by the front page of the website. (Though you should still follow @msuhelpdesk!)
One of the final mock-ups created by Elise Haverstick.
We hired student workers to create our new website. There were two web developers, Tarah Marlow and Dustin Christy, who did the main bulk of the programming and one graphic design artist, Elise Haverstick, who was in charge of the color and design, for the most part. Matthew Stublefield was the supervisor of the project and met with the workers to give vision, requirements, direction, and revision as needed. Because all of the workers were part-time (7-10 hours per week) and needed to be taught and trained in working with WordPress and how to create the necessary programming for the website to function properly, the project took around six months. That was a longer time than anticipated, but it was worth it to give the experience and training to the students that they could then take into other projects. According to Elise, “There were equal parts learning and putting what I knew from classes into practice. I used a lot of what I knew, but I learned a lot in the process of translating my mock-ups to the actual product, too. There were three versions of the design and within those three versions there were about ten million mini-fixes on various things.”
The new Help Desk home page.
The new website now has a calendar on the front page so that we can highlight our training classes, a media slider (the set of scrolling images just below the header), and an array of templates and layouts for different pages as they are needed. There is also a place to advertise upcoming events and recent blog posts in the sidebar of most pages, which we are excited about. Overall, we think our new website is a beaut, and hope you do, too!
–Renée Dunn, Computer Services, Training and Documentation GA