Spend any time perusing university web pages, and you're likely to encounter some serious flops. From enormous and slow graphics to minimalist presentations and outdated pages, not to mention the simply dead ones (we'll spare you a dead link), university websites can make you wonder just who was behind the computer, not to mention if they've checked their site recently.
Maintaining a web site is hard enough as it is, but university departments have traditionally passed their web work off to a single person with the know-how. As departments now acknowledge the importance of an online presence, they are finally devoting resources to the process and creating some decent pages.
Along these lines, upcoming department web masters could learn a lot from the Multimedia and Visualization Lab. Literally.
The Multimedia Visualization Lab, found here, is packed to the ceiling with new technology. Sound, animation, video, still photo, image enhancement - the works. All of this is intended for the high-tech instructional needs of UA faculty, but non-faculty and students can get access to the MVL as well. (Read lab's usage policy.)
As far as the MVL's web site goes, future web masters take note. The MVL site is broken into five basic areas, divided into the who, what, where, when, why and how behind the MVL, eliminating the 'billions of links' syndrome common to university pages. The MVL site capitalizes on simplicity, an attribute some web authors seem to avoid.
As far as images go, the MVL site doesn't shove hundreds of kilobytes worth of graphics at the user unless they specifically poke around looking for just that. Real images are saved for the important information, such as photos of workstation layouts, even software packages.
Don't be fooled, though, the bells and whistles are there. A little exploring uncovers the site's real bonuses, such as the Quicktime VR tour of the lab itself (you'll need the plugin, of course) or the myriad on-line cheat sheets which outline basic multimedia activities any webmaster will care about.
The MVL holds free workshops too, where aspiring multimedia-heads can learn any number of multimedia packages and techniques. MVL web master Peter Holland's on-line workshop scheduling system streamlines the sign-up process down to, oh, four seconds or so.
The site represents the work of the lab's entire staff, says senior multimedia facilitator and site executive director Joseph Boudreaux, but is a constant project nonetheless.
"It's amazing how much work it takes," he says, noting that many new web presentation tricks found in staff homepages have not made it to the site yet to provide for differences in audience browsers.
Navigational and staff portions of the site are slated for some upcoming work, he says.
"It's due for some major tweaks in the next couple of weeks" says Boudreaux.