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CDSG website redesign - Request for comments / etc

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Joined: 24 Aug 2007
Posts: 326

PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 10:56 pm    Post subject: CDSG website redesign - Request for comments / etc Reply with quote

Hi Folks:

Before I dive on the grenade of redoing the CDSG website - I thought I post this public request for comments / desires, etc. Feel free to post your thoughts here even if its "Don't change anything!".


CDSG Webmaster.
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Joined: 09 Sep 2007
Posts: 16
Location: Peoria, IL

PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 3:31 am    Post subject: Great avenue for getting feedback! Reply with quote

This series of comments is good for our members and for the group. Keep up the good work! Lets hope that we can glean some useful guidance and come up with a way to act on it. Both criticism and praise are equally important.

A key thing is to come up with a course of action and a way to implement it to help the CDSG grow as an organization and support its membership, efforts at preservation and interpretation at the sites and provide information for old hands and people new to this field of study as well/

Keep up the good comments!
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just want to say up front that I appreciate the amount of work that has gone and continues to go into the site. You and the others responsible deserve a lot of credit that there is a reasonably working and up to date site at all.

That said, here is a list of things I dislike about the current site:
(In no particular order)

Consistency in color of backgrounds and text. Also font size and etc.
I think the current colors of brown with black text is nice, but there are a lot of pages that don't follow it. I'm not necessarily opposed to color coding different sections, as long as it is consistent and they all look like part of the same site.

Reasonable compression of images.
There really isn't a good reason for any of the images on the main page to be more than ~50k, but many are much more. This is less of an issue as most people have access to highspeed connections now, but it's still wasteful and easy to fix.

Over use of center aligned text and images.
This is particularly annoying with lists of links and similar, and excessive use tends to give a very "1990s" feel to a site.

Ease of navigation
I'm not familiar enough with the content on the site to offer any concrete suggestions, but I find it quite difficult find things and navigate most of the site. Here are a couple of the main issues off the top of my head:

On the main page there is a massive list of links that seem to be in little or no order. Barring wholesale redesign, I'd at least like them sorted a bit better and some section headings added.

There are a lot of very long pages, the ePress catalog is a good example. There is just way to much information on it for a single page in my opinion.

EDIT: I just read Chris' more detailed "technical lines" post over on Yahoo and it sounds like you are planing enough of an overhaul that a lot of the stylistic quibbles above are likely to disappear anyhow.

There has been also been some discussion of what the mission of the site should be, and here are some of my thoughts on it.

The two most important functions of the site, as I see it, are outreach to new people and distribution of timely information on conferences and the like for members.

For outreach, It would be good to keep the target audience in mind while deciding how and what information to present. The entry level pages should be targeted to someone who was out walking their dog and wants to know what the big concrete building they saw is. They likely don't care about the details of the fire control system or carriages beyond a single paragraph on disappearing vs. barbette vs. mortars. It might also be a good idea to try and keep things as bite-size as possible and avoid "wall of text" type pages. It's fine and good to have more detailed information available on the site, but it shouldn't be the first thing someone stumbles into.

For conference information and such you already have an interested audience, so the presentation is less of an issue than keeping it up to date and concise, and I think that is being done well as it stands now.

The CDSG Press and ePress listings and ordering information are also an important function. Online sales through the site could be useful for some, but I understand that it adds a whole level of complexity that may not be warranted.

There has also been talk at versus times of "CDSG members-only" areas or requiring registration. I am strongly opposed to this idea. I personally hate it when a site wants you to register just to see something and generally don't bother. Something like download access to the CDSG Journals or historic document PDFs for members only would be OK, but the majority of the site should be open and free.

Hope some of that is helpful.

~Andy Rohde
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Joined: 24 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Search function for the website - I think we need that as a minimum.
2. Links to CDSG sites on social media highlighted on homepage (Facebook, YouTube, etc).
3. Page Header - Ideally 1 + 2 are built into some kind of header that is common to all pages in the site. Might also include top menu navigation?
4. Left-hand menu - could work in conjunction with top menu to help statify content in the site. Ideally, any item would only be a couple of clicks away from the homepage at most.
5. Better integration between CDSG website and message board
6. Designed for 1024 x 768 screen resolution? - higher/lower?
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding Andy's and Karl's comments - I agree 100% about "entry level" site visitors. I was thinking the level of detail should be equivalent to that found on interpretive signs. Light on the text, and heavy on the graphics. One thing I learned from all the experts is that simpler is better. Too much info at once turns people off, just as Andy said.

Regarding graphics on the home page - again I agree...maybe a single welcoming graphic (picture of the month?). Other pictures should be moved off into a topic specfic photo gallery area.

I'd like to seem some real estate on the home page reserved for "banner ads". These would be items that CDSG wants to highlight. For example, a sale on a CDSG book title, upcoming conference/event, or a preservation "alert".

I feel that simple measures such as this help with the image that this is a living, active website - and not a museum piece / dead page.
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 8:08 pm    Post subject: Website Redesign Reply with quote

I do think it is good that we provide higher level stuff for the serious researcher/historians -- in my opinion if we can make stuff available from the National Archives, it not only generally helps people who simply don't have the opportunity to travel to Washington, it helps preserve the originals by keeping them from be continually handled. This is one of the reasons that I copied the minutes of the Endicott Board, the Taft Board, and the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications in their entirety -- anyone who wants a copy can have it. I see the same applying to the many resources available on the website.

But for the typical person who is looking at one of the harbor defense maps trying to get an idea of what was at a fort that they have recently visited, most of the "interesting stuff" gets completely lost in all the other stuff that the map shows. Of course, the problem is that we need to have "simpler" material available that would speak to their level of understanding. I'm not sure what we have available along those lines.

The better that we can help these regular tourists and students understand what they are seeing, the better they might understand the value of preserving things of a bygone age.
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, It sounds like you have a lot of good ideas with the layout and such. I don't think more than one photo on the main page is really a problem, I just remember watching that Fort Columbia photo load pixel by pixel on my old dial-up connection.. Something that changes like your photo of the month, or even the random photo on fortWiki are good ideas.

I also agree with Karl it would be great to have the old documents online for serious researchers at some point, and that most of them are a bad place to start for interpretation.

Another issue is that a new person is likely to be have a very local scope of interest to start with. If the CDSG site wants to be a one-stop-shop for new people, we really need a "simple" page for every fort a visitor may have just seen. Generating the content for that would be a tremendous amount of work though.

A different option is to try and delegate this location specific stuff to other sites like fortWiki and the more local web sites. I'm not sure what educational function the CDSG site would serve then though. Maybe a sort of online version of Mark's Reference Guide, with general information on battery design and guns / equipment.

~Andy Rohde
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Location: Virginia Beach, VA

PostPosted: Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the suggestions brought forth. I can tell you I really dislike the appearance of our Andy said its so '90's. Just for reference, I liked the appearance of Fort Miles' website and thought ours could look similar. Of course we won't have the living history theme as they do, but its all about the appearance and functionality.

It needs to be apparent what our major themes are: Education, Documentation, Preservation, and Interpretation. That should be the main menu so to speak, and other website areas should fall under these categories, in addition to maybe a few extra areas specifically for CDSG Press, CDSG Fund, etc.

The first thing that needs to be changed is the homepage. Subsequent pages can be changed later, but eventually every page should end up looking consistent with each other.

Chris, I would certainly like to discuss this further with you in the near future, as I would like for this project to be completed on our watch. Welcome to the BOD, by the way Smile

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know this is old, but just read it now. Any thought to switching the forum to SimpleMachines? It's freeware and you can add a ton of modules to it including integrating it with the front page, download galleries for photos and documents, etc.

A CMS module
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I need to get back on the website...Right now the conference is consuming ALL my spare time.
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