They say the cobler’s children are the last to get shoes. We thought that this shouldn’t be the case any longer for the HighEdWeb conference. I spent the last 10 months (with the help of my student programmers) trying to make the HighEdWeb conference website use technology we could show off, rather than just enough to get by. Browsing through the site will only give you half the story – some of the best features most people don’t even see.
Early on, we had problems where the database connection on our host kept dropping. So to prevent any issues, we brought the administrative and database functions to a Missouri State hosted site. However, I still wanted public functions such as the schedule to display on the main site. The most straightforward way to accomplish this was by outputting the schedule as an XML feed and to consume it on the main site. Getting the XSLT to display the schedule the way we wanted took an entire day to code. Take a look at both of them:
I wonder if for a fun challenge I can get the next conference chair to have a competition for the best application to consume the XML schedule?
From Proposal to Conference
Another feature we spent a long time working on was a full database driven web application to manage the conference. Proposal submission, review, acceptence emails with promotional codes, exports for conference publications and more were integrated into a single system. We also spent a long time discussing and planning the user experience for registration so that the final product would be easy to use. I never realized how many different discounts or variables went into a registration.
Beyond the Desktop
In recognition of the large number of devices that would be accessing the site, we created a mobile version of the website for the first time. Rather than sacrifice features on the main site so that it would render correctly anywhere, instead we made an alternate site specifically designed as an on-the-go reference for the conference.