Web Services

Blackfoot Digital Library – new and improved

The long and auspicious journey of the Blackfoot Digital Library (BDL) has met yet another major milestone. The newest iteration of it went live last week, after almost two years of planning and work.


“The first version of the BDL in 2009 was ground-breaking work,” says IT Services’ Web Manager Michael Warf. “It pushed boundaries with the technologies but, because it was so customized, upgrades became a huge barrier. The other huge shift that happened since the first version was developed was the evolution of mobile devices,” Warf says. “The previous BDL site didn’t have any support for these devices, which created a significant barrier with the growth in mobile usage.”

As a result, and with the assistance of a grant, the University Library commissioned Hybrid Forge, an Edmonton company that specializes in design and development for the web and mobile. IT Services was brought in to assist with the RFP, vendor selection, and to act as a consultant on the project. “It’s one thing to have an idea and it’s quite another to understand what’s within the realm of the possible. It’s not unlike doing a complete renovation on your existing home. You and the contractor have to communicate in order to manage what can be changed or rebuilt and what the associated costs are,” says Warf.

IT Services’ ongoing commitment to supporting this important and significant resource is to be commended.”

Once Hybrid Forge completed the development of the new BDL site, the ITS Web team deployed it on campus. The system now can be secured, updated and maintained appropriately. “The longevity of the system is now there and can easily upgraded and secured. And it also works well on mobile devices. One of the great features is that anyone can use a mobile device to record interviews and the files can be immediately uploaded to the Blackfoot Digital Library. It removes all the extra steps that are often involved.”

Wendy Merkley, Associate University Librarian says the new BDL is the result of a successful collaborative effort on the part of the Library, IT Services and Red Crow College. “While the process encountered difficulties, the relationships established early on by the members of the core project team served to ensure that we did not lose momentum or direction. IT Services’ ongoing commitment to supporting this important and significant resource is to be commended.”

For more information, please contact Michael Warf at michael.warf@uleth.ca, or 403-332-4584.

Revitalized Notice Board to launch July 28


The University’s new Notice Board represents the culmination of months of hard work by the Web team, along with hours of user input and testing. Michael Warf, ITS Web Manager, says the team is excited to be launching the revitalized site. It has a number of useful and innovative tools that will make finding information easier and visually appealing, he adds.

“The current Notice Board is written in an old programming language and we no longer have the resources to support it. In technology terms, it’s a dinosaur. Last year the team was commissioned by University Advancement to produce a more modern tool.”new-notice-board

The team first reviewed the usage analytics on the old Notice Board which generate a visual representation of the mouse clicks on the site. “It revealed that it was used primarily as a bookmarking tool,” says Warf. “People clicked on buttons and icons to get to other pages like The Bridge, the online directory, employment opportunities and items that appeared on the image carousel. There were no deep dives into much of the content.” However, the team did discover that the site is the fifth-most-visited property on the University’s website, averaging approximately 1,500 visitors per day.

The next step was User Experience (UX) testing with a wide representation of faculty, staff and students. “We developed sketches which allowed us to get feedback and make quick and low-cost revisions with relative ease. That worked really well,” says Warf.

Among the elements in the prototype are the ability to filter content through keyword searches for date, subject and location. The UX results were not surprising to the Web team. “People really liked the ability to filter and search, the layout of the site, the ability to edit and manage posts, and that the content is all on one page. We also confirmed our suspicion that students had either not heard of the Notice Board, or had no use for it.”

Information sessions were conducted in June, and training workshops are scheduled for July 10 in University Hall, room E640. The workshops are limited to one hour at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m. Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend for a more hands-on approach and will be prepared to enter notices in the new Notice Board after launch. Those who are unable to attend can contact help@uleth.ca to set up departmental training workshops.

Participants are encouraged to RSVP via survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QF92BMX) for the workshops to ensure availability of computers.

The launch date of the new and improved version is scheduled for July 28, 2014.

UX – a better Web experience

UX Atrium picDeveloping traditional websites involves multiple stages from design to development. Often this process leads to an end product that is built more for a technical audience than for its end users. Recognizing the gap in the traditional process, the web team at the University of Lethbridge has adopted user experience methods to move from a functional build, to making them a more pleasant experience.

UX, an acronym for User Experience, is a practice that uses research to understand user needs, and to align those needs to current products and services. “It has more to do with an improved online experience for students, faculty and staff,” says Michael Warf, Web Manager.

The Web team recently employed UX to determine how students, faculty and staff use the Notice Board. “We know that people are having trouble finding things because, to the eye, it’s a very busy site with competing information and visuals. It’s been a dumping ground of unorganized information. In order to understand how people use it, we set up monitors in the U Hall Atrium and invited passers-by to search for specific things on the Notice Board. This provided us with a fairly clear realization around how they went about using that site. This information will help us build something that will align to both the information the University needs to share, and the ability for users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” Warf says.

UX continues to be used to assist in the design of the University’s student portal. With the ultimate goal of satisfying the needs of both the University and the students, the questions are many and complex. “For example, we know that more students have smart phones than laptops, and that they access their calendars on their phones. Yet, what they can see on their phones was built for desktop and laptop computers. That poses a problem with providing them information in a format they can use.

“Continuing to collaborate with end users in the early design stages of a website helps us to better define the required features and functions that provide a balance between the needs of the University and providing a website that is enjoyable and easy to use.”

Watch for future UX events on campus so you can get involved and help us make your user experience better!


Websites launches

The IT Services Web team continues to migrate old legacy sites into the new Drupal-based content management system. The following sites were launched within the past few weeks:

Classroom Support

Conference & Event Services

Human Resources’ Wellness site

Information Technology Services

Facilities’ campus Sustainability site

Alberta Conference on Linguistics (Nov. 2012)

Western Canadian Deans of Graduate Studies conference (Jan 31-Feb 1)

New Campus Map

Unlike the previous facility-driven campus map, the new map contains expanded content, focusing on both services and students. Visitors to the map can browse campus buildings, services, directions, and contextual information (example: parking lots are labeled, but also the times parking is enforced). But it expands on parking and buildings by providing information like food outlets, operating hours, prices, counseling services, and even the location of the campus defibrillators. It is searchable by keyword and can also provide driving directions from campus to anywhere in the city. In addition to being a way-finding tool, future and new students can use it as a basic online campus tour. The technology also uses wifi signals to shows the user’s device location right on the map itself.

Try out the new Campus Map.

Website launches

IT Services launched a number of newly redesigned websites within the past month, including the Privacy Office, Alumni Homecoming, Advancement Giving, Science Complex, and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.