#DivBlk: Principles in Action During a Website Migration

2) Platform Decisions and Implementation

Semester: Fall 2018

Committee: Chair Michelle Byrnes (undergraduate), Lauren Cooper (librarian), Quader’a Henry (undergraduate), Caleb Trotter (CCP alum), Labanya Voorhees (masters student) and Keith Jones (Library IT Systems Programmer) with Jim Casey (co-director) providing strategic input

Introduction: In Week 1, we discussed how important it was to have a full-time project manager to adapt work plans as the rhythm of an academic calendar changed and student skill sets varied. This week we share how, after two years, fresh eyes on the project helped to see some major work still outstanding.

Graphic of moving platformsIn Spring 2018, the Website Committee had spent the semester migrating content from Omeka Classic to WordPress, as well as migrating documents and metadata to Omeka S. The WordPress install would serve as the site for our general information, exhibits, and news and events. The Omeka S install would house our digital collection. In Fall 2018, we thought the two new websites, WordPress and Omeka S, were ready to launch with a few outstanding needs of finishing the exhibit transfer work and fine-tuning the design to CCP’s collective input. There were a few key issues to we needed to resolve with each platform as was reported in the semester end report:

Omeka S with SOLR Search

  1. Difficult to Access Documents
    • Too many clicks to download a document. We did not have Omeka S house the PDF documents or their facsimile but was serving as a stopover point, linking out to UD’s institutional repository to download documents. If visitors first came to the WordPress site, found an exhibit that included a link to a document they wanted to read, the visitor then was linked to Omeka S to read the metadata (with no preview), and then had to link over to UDSpace to download the file.
  2. Search and Functionality Was Discomforting
    • SOLR does very granular searching out of the box. We did not have the know-how to refine the searches and felt overpowered.
    • Menu was a set of saved queries with long URL strings that was difficult to read. Researchers may be familiar with these structures but they were not inviting for general public or students.
    • Search results were lost once you clicked an item to view, therefore, you would have to open a document in a new tab and/or start your search again.
  3. Loss of Engaging Features
    • We did not have Omeka S housing the transcribed text we had in Omeka Classic.
    • We did not have Omeka S housing PDF or JPG document files ( therefore no image to preview) and only had a text-based interface.
  4. Omeka S Was New
    • Limit support forum activity and community experience to build on
    • Limited developer help to access

WordPress

  1. Homepage was too dark and content blocks on the homepage were too dynamic (rotating images, pop up text)
  2. General information was missing such as how to contact us, donations, news and events, and Principles

 

View of missing pages from exhibit.

Then a huge obstacle emerged; one that ultimately added five months to our timeline. We had noticed a few exhibit pages were missing here and there, but assumed it was a limited problem. During a November 2018 CCP working meeting, new Website Committee Chair Michelle Byrnes realized entire sections of Biographies were missing from the “Fight for Black Mobility” exhibit. Project Manager Lauren Cooper and Michelle sat down to examine the extent of what was missing and figure out a game plan for completing. In this one exhibit, page after page of biographies were incomplete. While spot-checking other exhibits and comparing the Omeka Classic menu structure against the WordPress menu structure, we realized that in moving to a new platform, the Spring 2018 Website Committee had collapsed some of the content to single pages in an effort to streamline the menu structures and fit nicely into the new WordPress design. However, not all the content had been migrated.

It soon became clear that there were enough incomplete pages to warrant an audit – exhibit by exhibit, page by page, section by section – to see what was missing. As a result, the schedule to launch the new digital platforms was delayed indefinitely for quality assurance purposes. We decided to spend the rest of the semester and into the Winter session focused on the audit. Depending on what we found missing, we would build a new schedule to get the content added, then we could resume preparing the platforms for launch.

Takeaway

After two years in development and pressures by the technologists to launch, there were also strong concerns from the CCP leadership team that the sites weren’t ready. The priorities of content presentation and the scholarly implications and the priority of basic, technical functionality were at odds. Having new committee chairs and a project manager brought fresh perspectives that helped re-assess the state of production development, so that we could see the work left to be done more clearly.

 

READ MORE: #DivBlk: Principles in Action During a Website Migration

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The Colored Conventions Project was launched & cultivated at the University of Delaware from 2012-2020.