We came. We saw. We launched.

Today, a long awaited day arrived. Not Valentine’s Day (well, there’s that), but launch day. Penn State’s new website, http://www.psu.edu/ and new news site, http://news.psu.edu/ were released to the public earlier this morning. If you take moment to read back through the long line of posts on this blog, you’ll get some sense of the amount of hard work that went into today’s launch. An incredible team worked across the University to bring together a unified vision for what a university site should be today.

While the transition to the new sites went smoothly, as with an new site release – especially one this large scale – we ran into a few unexpected but fixable snags – thanks to you! You all have done a remarkable job supplying us with feedback through each site’s feedback feature. Keep it coming. As a reminder, the form is available by clicking the “feedback” tab located on the right-hand side of the http://www.psu.edu/ and http://news.psu.edu/ sites.

While a tremendous amount of work was accomplished, we still have more to do. Members of the various teams are working today and throughout the next several days to ensure that the sites are working as expected. We’ve seen various issues arise since the early morning launch, through feedback submissions and social media contact. Again, the feedback form is the best way to get word directly to the team for handling. Thank you to everyone who helped us find the types of issues that inevitably happen when launching a site of this size.

We couldn’t be happier to have the sites up and running! We hope you like the new look and organization of information. Please check this blog regularly, as we’ll be posting updates and information on a regular basis.

As always, we look forward to keeping in touch with you!

–Patti and Karen

New Year New Resolve

The new year normally signals resolutions and plans for a fresh start. Too often the resolutions only last a short while and the freshness takes a turn toward looking like the same old routine that the resolutions were attempting to break. Sound familiar?
The good news is that the redesigns of www.psu.edu and the news site have not only remained on track, they’ve gone into high gear. The finish line is beginning to come into view and the teams have gained a renewed vigor and resolve to take these sites to new heights.
Here are some highlights of what’s been happening since the holiday break:
Staged versions of the fully responsive psu.edu and news pages are up and running. The Content Team is staging www.psu.edu content in preparation for launch. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is ongoing for both the www.psu.edu and news sites while the teams continue to evaluate and test accessibility and make any needed adjustments. A Google Analytics consultant has been identified to help with ongoing assessment of how visitors interact with the sites.
Phase2 Technology gave a demo of Sprints 4 and 5 and are midway through Sprint 6 in development. User roles for the content management system (CMS) are being defined and refined. Plans are being developed for cutting over to the new system while finalizing migration plans for the PSU News site, “formerly known as Live.”
Train-the-trainer sessions have commenced. The Training Team is doing a wonderful job leading the charge and working closely with the News Team Leads.
Kudos to everyone who has gotten us to this crucial point in the process! 
Here’s what’s on the near horizon as we move toward the final stretch:
  • UAT will continue at an aggressive pace to identify all concerns or necessary code modifications before the Security team enacts a code freeze prior to launch. While this is occurring, Polaris leadership will continue reviewing and prioritizing all issues reported.
  • Phase2 will conclude Sprint 6 development by the end of the week, effectively finishing the development of all planned functionality.
  • The Training Team will conduct the second of at least three planned training sessions.
  • Phase2 and the Technical Team will commence load testing on the servers.
  • The Content Team will continue entry of content for the Main Site into the Drupal CMS.
  • The Creative Team will continue working with Phase2 to make subtle adjustments to the design of both sites to ensure consistency and responsive design accuracy across multiple devices, operating systems, browsers and screen resolutions.
  • The Engagement Team is preparing pre-launch and post-launch communication.
All of us working on this project would like to wish you and yours a happy new year! We hope you are looking forward to the launch of the new sites as much as we are.
Thank you for your continued interest in the project.

Getting the House in Order

When my family and I lived in the same house for eleven years, we accumulated a lot of stuff that had either become outdated or was just no longer useful. When we moved recently, it was a painstaking task to go through all of our possessions (do we really need two lobster shaped platters?). 

Redesigning a website necessitates a similar process if it is to be done well, especially one that has not been updated in 11 years. The content needs to be reviewed to see where it belongs in a new design and reevaluated to determine its continued relevance, taking a number of stakeholders into consideration.

I’m happy to note that my new house is less cluttered, more well designed and better organized, which makes life more enjoyable than before. We hope that the end result of the www.psu.edu and live.psu.edu redesigns will accomplish similar experiences for those who visit the sites.

As the holiday break approaches for all of Penn State, the Polaris Team has been working diligently on the push toward the Grand Relaunch of www.psu.edu and live.psu.edu. An incredible amount of work has taken place, and yet so much still needs doing before that final, “ta da!” moment.

Recent accomplishments:

The final graphic designs for both the Main (www.psu.edu) and News (live.psu.edu) sites were determined by the Creative Team with the help of Design Review Committees. 

Usability studies are being utilized to help inform decisions about what content standardization may be needed during the reorganization of site information. During this process new content continues to be produced while prior news stories are retagged. Working groups formed to discuss newswire delivery and news APIs. Thanks go to the Content, News and Research Teams for moving these processes forward.

The Technical Team built the Development environment and is creating a committee for User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Phase2 Technology installed Drupal 7 and modules into the Development environment, completed Sprint 3, and moved on to begin Sprint 4.

The Engagement Team continues to plan for: communicating pre-launch training dates to content creators; promoting forthcoming rebuilt websites and soft launch testing process; providing communications to ensure a successful transition of the old websites to their new versions.

The Training Team began working on the training approach that will be used in January.

Discussions and recommendations around how to best use analytics going forward was continued by the Analytics Team.

Upcoming work:

  • The Analytics Team will continue the web analytics discussion
  • The Content and News Teams will have the technical capacity to begin entering content into the Drupal CMS soon. They will continue creating content for the new www.psu.edu and transitioning newly created stories to the News site database
  • The Creative Team will continue working with Phase2 to make any graphic design refinements for both sites as Phase2 proceeds with its Drupal theming process
  • The Engagement Team will continue refining its pre- and post-launch plans
  • The Technical Team will finish building the Staging/Production environment for the sites
  • The Training Team will have the ability to begin training content creators and editors on how to enter content into the Drupal CMS. This will be an ongoing process that will carry well into January.
  • Phase2 will come to State College to demo Sprint 3 and will install Drupal and its modules on the Staging/Production environment. They will conduct a train-the-trainer session with the Training Team and conclude building Sprint 4. They will also continue theming the new sites based on the graphic designs, and begin building Sprint 5.
    • A User Acceptance Testing (UAT) Committee will begin testing the sites across many fronts, including graphic design, responsive web design, accessibility, browser standardization, content accuracy and content entry. This process will continue in various formats until the Grand Relaunch.

All of us on the Polaris Team would like to wish you and yours all the best for the holiday season and throughout the new year. Thank you for your continued interest in this project.


Time Moves Quickly

The first snow of the season is falling in University Park. It brings a quality to the air that makes it seem somehow crisper and more refreshing. The first snow also marks the real beginning to the holiday season for me. For some reason, it helps the Christmas music on the radio seem ok. Just. (I know, bah humbug!).

It doesn’t seem possible that I haven’t written in this space for almost a month (perhaps I’ll get coal in my stocking). Where does the time go? Well, it moves quickly when we are busy, and the Polaris Team has been especially so. Here’s what the team has been working on:

The Wireframes Review Committee signed off on the News Site wireframes after concluding the feedback process. The Design Review Committee is taking an iterative approach to sign-offs for the graphics for the Main Site after the conclusion of the feedback process while starting the review for graphics on the News Site.

P2Tech has been busy building the Drupal framework and defining the requirements and further needs for the infrastructure of the News and Main Sites. They presented Sprints 1 and 2 (the first and second stages or iterations in the overall framework building process) and have begun Sprint 3.

The Engagement Team began formulating pre-launch communication plans for the Grand Relaunch.

The Content Team conducted key meetings to discuss social media integration, emergency alerts and crisis messaging takeover.

An ad-hoc group is discussing the future of the Live iPhone app.

What’s next:

  • The Design Review Committee will meet twice to continue modifying and finalizing graphic designs for the Main and News Sites
  • The Infrastructure Team will finish building the Development environment
The build up to the holiday season is a naturally busy time and we appreciate you taking a few moments to get caught up with our progress.

Let’s Meet

After working at Penn State for 15 years, I’ve learned to accept that to move projects forward in higher education you must have meetings. Lots of them. Throughout the life of any project. It’s just how things get done.
In my experience, meetings serve two main purposes: 1) to provide a touchpoint where the project team can learn what has been done to date and get a clear picture of what needs to happen next, or 2) to make plans for how to approach a task or work through a problem. 
This week’s update is all about the meeting:
Several teams met in order to move their portion of the redesign process forward. The Design Review Committee met again to review the latest round of graphic designs intended for desktop viewing. The News Team met with other key constituents to formulate how the main site will interact with the news site when the site launches. The Creative Team met to consider strategies for handling the use of photography (guidelines for uploading, sizing, cropping, etc.). The Content Team met to continue the content strategy discussion. The Infrastructure Committee met with P2Tech (the vendor) to design a plan for the setup of servers. And finally, the Team Leads met to prepare for the “Grand Relaunch.”
On deck:
  • P2Tech will a) begin building the Drupal framework, b) deliver its technical architecture plan,  and c) meet with the News Team to further define requirements for the news site.
  • An ad hoc group will meet to continue discussions on social media requirements
  • The News Team and the Creative Team (separately) asked the Polaris Team as a whole to provide input on the news wireframes and the graphic design of the main site. Each team will continue to evaluate the feedback received.
  • The Design Review Committee will meet for a fifth time to review the latest round of desktop, smart phone and tablet graphic designs.
I consider it an honor to be your eyes into the process we are taking to update, rethink and redesign the web presence at Penn State. I mean it when I thank you for your continued interest in the project. I hope you will ask a question or send a comment if you would like clarification or different information about what is happening.
Until next time…

Putting the Fun in Functional Analysis

Writing these blog posts is both a joy and a challenge. I’m filled with geeky delight as the teams enter each new phase of the project to rework, renew and rethink the Penn State web presence. 

The challenge comes when attempting to make these updates, well…fun. Putting the fun in functional analysis is not exactly my gig (you wouldn’t want the functional requirements in limerick form, would you?), so I hope you will garner some enjoyment from reading about the overall progress and process we are taking on this journey.

Since the last post:

The Functional Analyst has begun his work by meeting with each team in varied capacities to obtain information for the formal Functional Requirements Document. The document will include information regarding content, social media, graphic design, accessibility, security, infrastructure, news, analytics and research.

Design aspects are moving forward at a fast pace. The Design Review Committee met for the third time, reviewing the first set of tablet computer graphic designs. A working group met to review mobile design strategy, taking into consideration the needs of accessibility. The News Wireframes Committee met two more times to review the latest rounds of wireframes for the News site.

Several Content and News Team sub-groups met to focus on the topics of conversation which included overarching content strategy, feature story strategy, news stream strategy, as well as content workflow strategy for research, news, public information and social media. Caroline Skinner accepted the role of co-leading the Content Team.

The Training Team had its kickoff meeting.

The vendor selected for the project, Phase2 Technology (P2Tech), began its work, visiting State College for two days of back-to-back meetings with the project teams.

On Deck:

  • P2Tech is preparing for Sprint 1 of its Drupal build.
  • P2Tech will meet with the Infrastructure Committee to produce a plan for the setup of the servers for the new Penn State web presence.
  • An ad hoc group will meet on Thursday to discuss photo strategy.
  • The Design Review Committee will meet for a fourth time to review the latest round of desktop, tablet and smart phone graphic designs.
  • The Content Team will continue content strategy discussions.
So many team members are working hard behind the scenes to bring you a much improved www.psu.edu. Let’s hope that some fun is had along the way.
Thanks for your continued interest.

Turning Points and Milestones

This thing is getting real. The process has reached a turning point where we can begin to visualize what www.psu.edu will become. Before long the focus will shift, and we will concentrate on strategies for how to implement the renewed vision.

We recently reached a significant milestone. The Drupal vendor was selected. Phase2 Technology has been awarded the contract to assist in the setup of Drupal and in the theming of graphic designs for the new site.

While preliminary work moved forward, plans solidified for the review of graphic design options for www.psu.edu. Wireframes were reviewed for the news site. Discussions regarding the feature slider on the home page continued with various strategies still under consideration.

What’s on Deck:

  • The News IA/Wireframes Committee will meet for the third time to review News wireframes (the Polaris team will be given the opportunity to review these as well)
  • The Design Review Committee will meet for the third time and will plan to review the first set of tablet computer graphic designs
  • Phase2 Technology will begin its discovery phase
  • A functional analyst will meet with several working groups and begin writing the Functional Requirements Document
  • Discussions about the process for reviewing new content for the site will commence

This is an exciting time for the Polaris Team. We appreciate your continued interest and I hope that you find these updates useful.


Features, Functions and Technical Decisions

What creates a good web experience? Smart graphics? Interesting content? Ability to find what you need? Seamless technical functionality? We are working on all of these features and more in the redesign of www.psu.edu as evidenced by the work completed over the last couple of weeks.

Teams are working on the features and look of the future www.psu.edu site. Wireframes have been completed, including wireframes for smart phones and tablets. Both graphic design and content creation are moving forward for the site and an ad hoc group is working on a strategy for the feature slider on the home page.

Functional and technical decisions for www.psu.edu are also in focus. The News Team surveyed news content creators at campuses and colleges to ensure the new Drupal content management system front end is built properly for news specifications. Similarly, the Core Team is preparing to hire a short-term Functional Analyst to work with all Teams to write the formal Functional Requirements Document for the overall project. The Technical team evaluated proposals from Drupal vendors and the overall Team Leads considered strategies to support www.psu.edu after the new site is launched.

On Deck for this week:

  • Selection of the Drupal vendor who will assist with the proper setup of the Drupal 7 content management system
  • Continued discussion of strategy for the feature slider on the home page
  • Planning for the review of graphic designs and content

Thanks for your continued interest in the project.


As Fall Semester Begins

Another year, another successful move-in. Bringing more than 40,000 students with all of the promise and anticipation that go with the start of fall semester. Our small town doubled in size practically overnight. Activity has picked up everywhere you go. Classes have begun. And our work continues.

Here’s what has happened with the www.psu.edu redesign project in the past week:

As indicated in the previous post, the Creative Team continued work on preliminary designs for the new www.psu.edu site. The Technical Team also continued to formulate the A/B testing process.

On deck for this week:

  • The two processes noted above will continue with a nod to responsive web design (RWD), which will inform the wireframe and design variations that are considered and finalized in the coming weeks.
  • The Information Architecture (IA)/Wireframes Review committee will evaluate wireframes for tablet devices.
  • The News Team leads will meet with other project co-leads to formulate plans for engaging news content providers.
  • The overall Team Leads will convene to discuss the support of www.psu.edu and news after the new site is launched. Also on tap will be a discussion of the future news site domain name as well as whether or not to release a formal Iteration 4 prior to the Grand Relaunch of the site.

We are happy to have our student body back. It gives heightened meaning to the improvements we are working to achieve with this project.

Thanks for your continued interest!