Updating Dunbar Grammar’s web site

A meeting at Dunbar Grammar today brought together students, senior managers and staff to decide next steps in redeveloping the school’s web site. The existing site is typical of the first generation of school web sites, in that its main role is publishing formal school information. Although there’s a student section, it’s published information for a student audience.

The web site group has formed as a result of student pressure for change, which is an interesting sign of the times. Two S6 students, Murray and Toby, have spent time researching options for improvement. One barrier they identified is the existing eZpublish Content Management System, which is powerful, but has a relatively complex admin interface (see image). Because it’s not intuitive, very few people know how to use it to maintain the site.
eZpublish admin interface The idea has been to replace it with something that’s easy enough for most staff and students to use, but powerful enough to meet the expected needs of the school. The two main candidates were Mambo and Website Baker. Pete Gray, who was behind the adoption of eZpublish for the school site and for the Exc-el site, suggested Website Baker. He had experience of using it with a range of content authors, and found that anyone familiar with PC word processing could use it immediately with no need for training (see screenshot below). Mambo, on the other hand (perhaps because of more functionality?) was significantly harder for novices to use.

The other main change will be to supplement the static content with streams of news, posts and comments from weblogs. As with other East Lothian schools, Exc-el weblogs are being made available to students, staff and organisations such as School Boards. The plan is bring headlines from these to the home page in a similar way to the current Exc-el home page. We envisage blogs being used as individual learning journals, as class blogs, e.g. for Scribe Posts , and also for sports teams, newsletters and for other learning groups. Website Baker start screenBy bringing feeds from these to the home page, we aim to put learners at the centre of the site.

I’d though that maybe WordPress would be a good choice for the home page, because of the flexibility it offers to present a range of content easily using tools such as Sidebar Widgets. Pete, with his experience of Website Baker, reckons it can provide this functionality just as easily.

Next step is for Anne Johnston to continue migrating the content from eZpublish to Website Baker. That’s been started, and is progressing well. It’s being done by cut and paste, which isn’t proving too difficult. The content needs pruned anyway, as some is out of date. Murray and Toby were set up with Exc-el blogs and given a quick intro to enable them to explore WordPress.

It’s looking like we’ll be ready to start piloting the new site within a week.