August I have been working with a group of students from The
Art Institute of California - Orange County (based
in Costa Mesa) on creating a new design for the OCA site.
I was approched by a colleague from my prior job who was teaching
a web media design class. The students course-work needed
to be based upon the development of a new design for a web
site. Ideally they wanted to work with a real live client
rather than to make one up. We, the OCA, were the real-live
client. In order to work on this project they appointed a
project manager, content managerr, information architect and
various site developers and graphic designers.
I held a meeting with
the students just prior to my vacation to the UK in August.
At this meeting I presented to them our existing web site
and spent some time describing our organization, it's mission
and goals. I also descibed to them various improvements that
I was looking for with a new site design. After this meeting
the group set about taking the input I gave them, coupled
with an in-depth look at the existing site - and started to
create three different possible designs for the new web site.
After a few weeks the
students came back to me with the new designs. I showed these
ideas to other board members and club members. From the three
"comps" they showed us we chose one as the winner.
At this point the group started in earnest to re-develop the
new site. This involved coming up with some standard template(s)
for various sections of the site.
The students handed over
to me their design about 3-weeks ago at a meeting held at
their facility in Costa Mesa. They presented to me all of
the files they had updated at that time and took me through
all of their work. They had all done a very fine job!.
Ever since then I have
been massaging the remaining old content into the new template
design they came up with. I have also been creating a lot
of new content. I think it works pretty well and creates some
new functionality that I have been looking to implement for
Here is a summary of some of the major
changes to the site.
One of the first things you'll notice
is that I have replaced the OCA header with a one-line header
with the OCA Galaxy swirl and behind that a "cool"
rotating galaxy image. This is my only relapse into a "cool"
type of effect for the web site. I don't think it detracts
too much from what is going on. You will need to have Flash
installed on your system - if you don't you will be asked
to install it automatically. Flash is actually on more people's
computers than any other browser plug-in - so I suspect that
most of you will not even notice anything funny going on.
Primarily the main change I asked
for was related to global navigation. This is web-speak for
a menu that appears on every single page of the web site.
The current site has you getting lost every now and then because
the navigation is really only on the home page. The new setup
uses a special drop-down menu system that allows me to organize
the web site by category and to have a lot of links represented
on this menu. When you first access the new web site (if you
have a dial-up modem) you may notice a short delay while the
global navigation stuff is dowloaded for the first time. That
will only happen once. From then on all the menus are cached
on your system and accessing other web pages should be reasonably
This new navigation has been designed to
make it easier for you all to get around the web site and
find the content you are looking for. Every part of the menu
has a page behind it and is clickable - so just click away
- you might besurprised at what you find.
I have been looking over the web logs
on our web site. These logs show me what the most pupular
parts of the web site are for visitors. I used what the web
reports told me to help prioritize some of the changes to
content and layout that I wanted to implement.
home page content has undergone some subtle but significant
changes. With the moving of the navigation onto the top of
the page we end up with more space on the page for other useful
It turns out that one of the most
frequently accessed parts of the site is the calendar. In
the new version of the site you will find some of the most
significant events from the calendar are displayed right on
the left side of the home page (saving you the extra click
you would otherwise have to have done). The home page now
shows the date of the next Black Star and Anza star parties
and the next general meeting. Below this you will also find
the events from the calendar over the next two weeks.
of the other most frequently accessed parts of the site is
the weather information. You will now find on the top right
of the home page the most recent weather information from
our weatherstation at Anza.
I have created a special Weather Dashboard
which combines the information from three different pages
onto one single page in this new version of the web site.
Now one click gets you what it would have taken 3 or more
We get on average 400 visitors a day to
the web site. Most are members - but a significant number
are people interested in finding out what our club is all
about. Our old site has a lot of information relevant to potential
new members of the oca - but it was quite hard to find. I
have made the existing information easier to locate and added
a great deal more information to the section. Some of this
information comes from a color brochure we recently created
and now distribute at outreaches and other events.
If you still use IE version 4 or below
- or Netscape version 3 or below - you may find this web site
does not display exactly as intended (this represents less
than 4% of our visitors). It has been designed to operate
in IE 5 and above and Netscape 4.7 and above. However the
Calendar section remains to be a little problematic for Netscape
users in general (sorry about that- I'll work on a fix)
In this re-launch of the web site
the students and I have had to work on over 1000 web pages.
It will be a miracle if everything works completely without
error. Please do send me links to any pages where there is
a broken link or other problem that needs my attention.
Additionally - a special message to
OCA members - this is your web site. I always welcome receiving
and publishing information sent to me by members. If you are
attending any astronomically relevent event outside the club
I want to hear about it and publish it on our web site.
You probably think that is a pretty silly
question! You are right - in that it didn't cost the club
a single penny. However, the students were doing this as a
real-live example of a customer project and they did treat
us like a real client. At the close
of the project I was informed they had budgeted around $36,000
worth of work on the proejct (and they just went over their
plan by a small amount). So this new site design, including
my own time spent on the project, amounts to some $60,000
worth of commercial time spent on it. Makes you think!
The Students: Craig, Misty, George, Jimmy, Henry, Jose