Full throttle back at work

September 10th, 2008

With hardly time to catch my breath I’m tossed straight back into a bunch of new projects whilst tying up a few loose ends on some old ones. So here’s what will be keeping me busy over the next few months at the Open University.

Induction web sites (for both undergraduate and postgraduate students)

My team first created induction websites for students way back in 2001. Back then they had grand plans of creating reusable chunks of XML code to be splatted onto various different course sites using XSLT. These grand visions never really worked as planned as the OU never did get their CMS of the time, Tridion to work properly.

I’m heading up the project to create an offering for the largely ignored postgraduate students as well as those undertaking undergraduate study. As you’ll imagine, the stakeholders are wide and varied for this one but I’m hoping to get some some social web stuff in the sites from the get go. OU staff want to buddy up? Students with ideas? What should we be doing? Let me know.

Study at the OU (phase two)

We launched the latest version of the online prospectus earlier in the year. Now we have the opportunity to finish the job. Expect a new and more exciting homepage, better designed and functioning course descriptions as well as some refinements to the information architecture.

Student Services Intranet

This site is getting so old and creaky now. The Dreamweaver/Contribute workflow still works remarkably well and seems to suit the staff. However, it would be nice to evolve into using a proper fit-for-purpose CMS like Drupal where we could properly separate the content, design and development layers to make technical updates less of a headache.

We’ve got the opportunity to do some decent guerrilla usability testing with staff in order to truly establish their needs in the various areas of the OU that call upon Student Services.

Services for Disabled Students (redesign)

A site that ought to be a shining example of the OU’s approach to web accessibility. At the moment it falls a little short of the mark with it’s confusing navigation systems and lack of respect for basic design principals. We’ll be sorting out the information architecture, giving it a fresh coat of pain and getting the Plain English folk in to address some of the institutional gobbledygook.

OU web standards, styles and guidelines website

Something that I’ve been working on sporadically as time has allowed. So far we’ve got a wiki which details basic requirements of all OU websites from a business, accessibility, usability, SEO and brand perspective. It covers things like the standard header and footer, fonts, colours, grids, photography, illustration, writing for the web and the like. We want to encourage more people from the OU to get involved in this so if you’re up for it, get in touch.

Aside from a few bits and pieces here and there, that’s me for the next few months. I’ve decided that I’m going to report my progress on the projects here now that I’ve retired my OU blog (too restrictive for me I’m afraid). I’m hoping I might be able to encourage some comments here and there so don’t be shy.

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