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    Using add-ons in Firefox

    By Sonja M Van Praag, on 11 March 2014

    Broken links on a web page can put people off re-visiting your website.

    But …

    You can quickly check all page links on a web page by adding the link-checker add-on in Firefox.
    Go to Tools | Add-ons
    In the search all add-ons box – at the top on the right – type ‘link checker’ and choose one of the suggested add-ons.
    You will need to install this and restart Firefox.
    From then on, when you click on Tools, you will see Check Page Links as one of the choices.
    If there is a link in red, you’ll know it’s broken.
    If not broken, they’ll be green.

    Chief Editors, Editors and Authors in Silva

    By Sonja M Van Praag, on 5 March 2014

    Quite a few of you received Silva training more than 1 or 2 years ago.
    Since then quite a few things have changed.
    You may want to look at the Silva Support pages for updated information.
    For example, we now recommend not to open external links in a new window on recommendation from Search Engines (since Jan 2013).
    We also have a page dedicated to the most important things to remember when editing / building web pages.
    And there is information for people who have just started using Silva.

    I’ll be posting regularly on our Blog to ensure you are kept up-to-date with Silva.

    Silva training courses

    By Sonja M Van Praag, on 2 January 2014

    New year, new resolutions… .

    Not really, but for a while we’ve been thinking about making changes to the current Silva training on offer.
    From January 30th, I’m introducing a one-day course, called Silva Plus, which will combine the current Silva Intermediate and Advanced Features.
    We will also be introducing an online presentation on ‘The Web at UCL’ which will inform interested users in topics that any web editor will need to familiarise themselves with, such as:

    • the Web at UCL
    • Accessibility on the web
    • Search Engine Optimisation
    • Usability
    • and more… !

    It will be a pre-requisite for anyone using UCL’s CMS to complete the online presentation.
    The web is constantly changing and it’s changing fast. Whether you are an Editor or building a website, it is vital that you are at least familiar with these topics or your website will not attract people, rendering the effort you put into building it useless.
    There will be an announcement through the Week @ UCL about this.
    A happy 2014!


    CMS Planning and Prioritising

    By Dan Jackson, on 5 July 2013

    Being somewhat shamefaced that we haven’t blogged for 15 months, it’s tempting to start with a list of excuses for the pregnant pause (big organisational changes, workload – the usual suspects.) However, instead of being introspective & retrospective, this post is about looking forward to where we want to be – and we’re certainly doing a lot to get there; constructing a digital strategy and the governance framework that needs to go with it; thinking about how to position our Web and Mobile Services team as a ‘Digital Agency for UCL'; working with Mark Boulton Design on a common Design Language that will enable us to develop visually consistent, responsive websites for the University; undertaking a rigorous process of service improvement.

    Our CMS review process

    Another critical activity that’s well underway is a review of our Content Management System (CMS). We know that the performance and scalability of our existing CMS is a concern, and that we’ve got work to do in order to get it up-to-date and make the underlying server and application stack more performant and resilient. From a recent survey of our CMS users, we also know that the content editing process is often a frustrating one; performance issues and  poor usability are frequent causes for complaint.

    More strategically, however, we’ve also been thinking about what functional and non-functional capabilities we want from a CMS, and how to enable ourselves to be future friendly; after all, it’s impossible to establish whether our current CMS is fit for purpose until we we know what we want it to do – both now, and in the future.

    CMS planning workshop

    To assist us in this process of CMS analysis, and to help validate our decisions, we’re working with the digital consultants and CMS experts from J.Boye. Over the summer we’ll be eliciting the opinions of a representative pool of UCL’s content editors, but we kicked off our investigations this week with a workshop for senior stakeholders from Information Services and Communications & Marketing to review CMS best practices and trends, and to define and prioritise our digital / CMS activities with some MoSCow analysis.

    Our priorities

    CMS worksop: prioritising

    So what did we conclude?At the top of our prioritised  list of “must haves” was a mix of activities that must happen in order to support our process of change and improvement, and a set of features that our CMS must offer as core capabilities:

    1. Digital Strategy & Governance (inc. senior management understanding of importance, central web funding)
    2. UX (optimal UX for all user groups, intuitive CMS editing interface)
    3. Mobile (responsive design, mobile first)
    4. Performance (inc. need to define performance budget & establish fit-for-purpose server architecture)
    5. Content & Metadata (structured for re-use, social/CMS integration)
    6. Compliance with corporate branding
    7. Security
    8. Actionable measurability
    9. CMS flexibility & extensibility
    10. System / data integration & interoperability

    CMS worksop: prioritisingMeanwhile, our “should haves” and “could haves” listed those items that we felt we should strive for, but that either may not be possible in the short term, or were not perceived to be core capabilities for a CMS:

    1. One UCL website with a global IA
    2. Standardisation of design & development processes / assets
    3. Focus on search
    4. Maturity of CMS vendor
    5. Controlled flexibility (controlled by Web & Mobile Services, flexible for editors)
    6. Capable of being UCL’s single CMS
    7. Skilled, professional content editors (federated model)
    8. Integrated, central DAM (digital asset management) system
    9. Simple, usable, integrated authentication
    10. CMS technology appropriate to UCL
    11. Scalable solution
    12. URL namespace defined
    13. Content review capability

    It was a good, well facilitated session (thanks Brian), and was really encouraging to see Directors & Heads working together to ponder on our CMS requirements and to deliberate on, and help prioritise, those tasks and issues at the heart of our web service improvement plans. We’ll be using this information to inform our Digital Strategy and CMS decision-making processes – watch this space.

    Not as soon as we’d hoped!

    By , on 25 April 2012

    I’m reliably informed nobody reads this blog but no matter, if you read my last blog you’d have noticed something about an upgrade. You may have been wondering what happened to it! It did indeed all go quiet. However we have been beavering away on it and we’re happy to say our hard work is starting to pay off. It’ll be a while before you guys will see the results though unfortunately. It is a massive upgrade.

    There’s a shiny new interface which you’ll be glad to know loads a lot faster and is far more responsive than it is presently. Kupu is being killed off and a nicer editor (ckeditor), that will render external sources in place, will be in. No more of these yellow boxes you love so much….. There will be whole new ways of creating content too that will give you added flexibility in designing your pages. We’ll be better too! The upgrades will make it easier to manage and develop new functionality for the service which means we’ll be able to deliver projects faster and be more responsive to your needs. On top of that, the man with the plan, Andy in IS has got some brilliant ideas on rebuilding our production set up to make it all go much faster so we’re dreaming of actually providing the quality of service that we hope you’ll actually enjoy using!

    I can imagine some of you won’t be thrilled to hear about changes to the user interface and will be concerned about having to get familiar with yet another new interface…. We know what a pain it can be. You’ll be glad to know that your sites will continue to work in the new setup and you won’t need to do any work to fix it!….. but there will be a little requirement to get familiar with things… Sorry! We’ve had the same interface for the last 8 years and it desperately needs modernising so there had to be some changes. We hope you’ll think of them as improvements :)
    and not just an attempt by us to wind you up! :(

    I’ll be back to give you more details on the upgrade and the features that we’ll be bringing in, til then…

    A BIG thanks to the IS Web Team!

    By , on 26 October 2011

    Just a short note to thank the guys in IS for their work behind the scenes on the Silva infrastructure.  Adrian Barker’s team have done a great job providing us with the infrastructure we need to improve the Silva CMS performance.  In particular Debs Pollard and Andy Sykes who did excellent work in moving the service over to the new Virtual Machines.  It was great to come through the difficult start of term period with very few problems.  We also have new caching servers available which will make things even better when we can implement caching as part of our upcoming upgrade.

    More on the upgrade soon!

    Why did we choose Silva!?

    By , on 23 September 2011

    A question often asked of us here in Web Services!  The choice was ultimately made by me and Neil Martin, we were the two Web Support Officers at the time but our choice was severely limited.

    The Content Management System Project Group (CMSPG) was set up in April 2002 to look into the options available for a CMS.  Very early on in the process that group settled on Zope as the framework for the future development of the CMS.  I was initially unimpressed by Zope on my first dealings with it.

    Several other universities had already started using Zope but with different CMS built on top of it.  In November 2003 I organised a Zope users meeting at the UCL and we had visitors from Bristol, Birkbeck, Oxford Brookes, ICH and others.  They were using different CMSs including Zope’s Content Management Framework (CMF), Plone and EasyPublisher.  In February 2004 I demoed some of the options for Zope to Information Systems (IS).  To say they weren’t impressed is an understatement!  Just after that meeting Neil discovered that his former employers, Luton University were using a Zope based CMS that we hadn’t heard off, Silva.  I quickly installed it and we arranged to go visit them.

    Compared to other CMS on offer Silva provided out-of-the-box organisational workflow which compared favourably to the community based alternatives where we would have had to develop the workflows separately which was something that would have been difficult to achieve quickly given our, then, limited Zope, Python skills.  The templating system was also very simple compared to the others and Neil and I could reproduce UCL templating very quickly.  It was also easier to build simple tools into it for template menuing etc.  It was the obvious choice for us.

    IS signed up Debs Pollard in late May 2004 to give us sysadmin support for the CMS and we finally started up the live service in early 2005.  Jon Bowlas joined up shortly after as our Silva Developer and we made great progress after that.

    There are now around 540 sites in Silva and we have some promising new developments on the way for 2012!  More on that in an bit.

    … and it’s goodbye from me.

    By Nick Dawe, on 31 January 2011

    Just a quick post to say that I’ll be leaving Web Services this week, so this will be my last post. It’s been great to be part of a skilled and enthusiastic team at Media Services, and it’s also been a pleasure writing this blog (although apologies for not posting much in the last few months!).

    All the best


    Joke of the day…

    By Nick Dawe, on 19 January 2011

    ‘So this SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish bar, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor’

    Goodbye to Neil…

    By Nick Dawe, on 10 September 2010

    As many UCL readers will know, our Web Services manager left us last month in order to emigrate with his family to Australia. Neil’s been working in Web Services for 8 years – a time that has seen huge changes in the Web and the way that we use it. At the beginning of this year, Neil’s role extended to becoming manager of Design and Web Services, in which he also had to grapple with the areas of print and graphic design. As well as being a encouraging manager and an expert on Web standards, we’ve also consistently enjoyed his humour, enthusiasm, and the opportunity to play with his iPad.

    A rare image of the Web Services team smiling. L-R: David Gillies, Jon Bowlas, Neil Martin, Ralph Bartholomew and Nick Dawe