May 2008

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May 09, 2008

Arts on Earth

Arts on Earth is a relatively old launch, but I missed it, and it's completely worth highlighting for several reasons.

Michigan Marketing and Design built the site, and it has some of the best code and design I've seen come out of that shop in a while:

The homepage opens with great art, clear navigation, and well-formed code. In fact, the whole page takes only 53 lines of XHTML-strict.

The most obvious problem is that the front page doesn't describe what Arts on Earth is. Even a few sentences could solve that and lead deeper into the site. However, with the well-designed navigation, this may not even be an issue.

To find out if visitors are indeed confused, the web developers could look at their analytics. If a large number of visitors only view the homepage and do not continue to sub-pages, adjustments to the design may be in order.

Sub-pages are also well-designed and well-coded. Take the news and events page:

Text is set consistently with Lucida Grande in fixed sizes: 10/11/12/18px (a fixed font size may still be problematic for some users). The face is cleverly varied -- uppercase, italicized, bolded, set in red and blue -- to create a great look. The variations are not random, though. It's clear they were thought through and reflect the structure of the page. Some headlines are set in Georgia, a nice contrast.

The web developers certainly knew their business; the XHTML is clean and semantic. I was pleasantly surprised to see they went the extra mile to add a print stylesheet. The CSS could be condensed a bit -- the same font property is repeated many times, when it could just be used once in the body selector.

Missing from the site are newer features such as an RSS feed for events and news. The Sign Up page offers a way to receive updates, but the "Join our e-mail list" link just opens a blank email to The maintainers could add clearer instructions on how to join the list -- or use a free third-party email newsletter management service that offers a simple signup form, like Campaign Monitor or FeedBurner.

All in all, an excellent new site that many developers (me included!) can learn from.

Posted by hampelm at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

Great redesign: a helpful search bar

Information architect Lou Rosenfeld has written about search analytics, highlighting how a small number of popular search queries account for a large proportion of total searches. His (quite logical) advice is to make those topics easy to find.

The University of Chicago recently redesigned their central site,, and they added a list of frequently-requested pages to the search bar. The list appears only when you click on the search field:
Search bar on showing contextual links to frequently accessed pages (directory, course schedules...) that appear when the search field is active

Posted by hampelm at 01:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2008

RC dev blog: putting my money where my mouth is

I've been complaining about a lack of transparency in the web development processes happening at Michigan. But of course, I haven't really put my money where my mouth is (there have been a couple twitter messages, and a couple blog posts -- but nothing serious)

So, I've started a blog that lists what we're working on now and what we'll be doing in the future.

Perhaps few are interested now. Perhaps few ever will be. But the process is out there, open for anyone to read.

There is absolutely no reason for secrecy -- we want anyone who has a take in the website to be able to get involved -- or at least stay informed.

Other development blogs:
View Source from Cornell
Your link here (oh, wait, you don't have a public dev blog)

Posted by hampelm at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

May Web Accessibility meeting

The Web Accessibility Working Group weblog reminds us that the next meeting is Tuesday the 13th at 1pm in 100 North Hatcher.

These meetings are always informative, no matter your level of knowledge; here's the agenda:

1) Update from our meeting with the Vice President for Communication's Web Access Committee meeting.

2) Round Table Discussion. Please come prepared to talk about the following:

-How does your department define accessible?
-Does your department attempt to comply with a particular standard, priority level, etc.?
-What specific tools do you use to measure success?
-What is your favorite tool?
-One tip you could offer...

Feel free to join us if you don't have answers to these questions and just want to hear what others have to say.

Posted by hampelm at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Videos on computer accessibility

AssistiveWare has a great collection of videos of people using adaptive technologies to play games, do work, and communicate. Found via the web development blog 456 Berea Street.

A circa 2003 video from the University of Washington presents mobility-impaired users, and accompanying documents explain the school's accessibility guidelines.

Posted by hampelm at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2008

What to call admissions

I did a quick survey of how a bunch of schools name their admissions sections. There's only a little variation in the schools I've looked at; I believe there's value in picking the industry standard.

Umich, UCLA:
Prospective Students

Future Students

Admissions & Financial Aid

Admissions & Aid

admissions+financial aid

Apply to Berkeley

Bard, Stanford:

Penn, Middlebury, Yale, Tufts, Stanford, Chicago, UIC, Baylor, Cornell, NYU, RPI:

Posted by hampelm at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)