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  The Past and Present of the METU WEB Pages
Project Team
Design Process of the WEB Pages

The Past and Present of METU WEB pages

METU web pages were introduced for the first time in 1994 as "Campus Wide Information System" (METU-CWIS). As time passed, circumstances, such as the fast pace of the technology, have necessitated several changes to take effect on the pages. (You can follow this link to view the former home pages as they have changed, beginning from the first time the pages were introduced.)

The endeavors to provide a new structure and design for METU web pages have been started in the second half of 1999. In this respect, two member of the Informatics Group in Computer Center conducted an academic study at graduate level. Meanwhile, two questionnaires were formulated and distributed. The project was further carried on April 2000 with more intense efforts, as the evaluations of the questionnaire results were adding spirit to the work. The main topics of the project were as follows:

Improvement of the information structure, enrichment of the content, launching the site in Turkish as well,
Visual and content wise design studies,
Constructing the technical infrastructure, development of many user friendly mechanisms that would enhance the communication within the campus,
Introduction of new web tools into service,
Application of gradual tests, development and arrangement of the new web pages by taking into consideration the opinions of the users,

Thereupon, the new content and the design of METU pages were introduced publicly on November 6th, 2000. METU is unprecedented with the design and unique theme of its web pages among the other university web pages in Turkey. The theme, "METU in Four Seasons", aims to provide visual representations of the wonderful nature of METU, which constitutes only one of the numerous remarkable characteristics of the University. Throughout the year, the pages are going to display various scenes from the campus, however the organization of the information will be kept intact. The design of the first season, which was Fall, was named "METU in Fall". This page remained on web and served until the first days of the January. The next one was the winter design, thus was named as "METU in Winter". The page was introduced into service on January 2nd, 2001. The current design of the pages, which is now available on http://www.odtu.edu.tr in Turkish and on http://www.metu.edu.tr in English, was introduced into service on April 2nd, 2001 and its name is "METU in Spring".

We are aware of the fact that, METU web pages address users with different levels of information, different likes and preferences, and different computer hardware. We have literally undertaken laborious and long lasting tasks to be able to address a wide variety of audiences, but it is impossible for us to fulfill the expectations and meet the needs of every user. However, it will be our main concern not to leave the new pages unchanged. We will elaborate our work in accordance with the preferences of our users, the feedback we receive from them and make advancements with regard to the fast pace of the technology.

Project Team

Informatics Group (CC-INFO), which is one of the structural groups within the Computer Center, has assumed the responsibility of preparing, updating, organising and managing the METU web pages. Indicated below are the members of the project team in the Informatics Group:

Evrim Akman (typesetting, control and updating)
Tufan Karadere (web programming)
Yasemin Saatçioğlu (graphical design)
Eser Sahillioğlu (web design and web programming)
Feyza Taşkazan (technical support and web programming)
Cihan Yıldırım (content structure and general organisation)

Outside the project team, the valuable contribution of the following people while accomplishing the hard chore of this project sould not be forgotten:

Ayla Altun (Head of the Computer Center)
Evrim Göçmen Güven (CC User Support Group Administrator)
Deniz Yönter (English- Turkish translations, and vice versa)

In addition to all acknowledged contributors, we should acknowledge the fact that the greatest and most valuable contribution was from the users of METU web pages. Without their opinions and suggestions, it would be very difficult to diagnose the problems and to find the right answers simultaneously while trying to accomplish the work. We genuinely hope that our communication with our users will continue in the future and we will together make METU web pages better each day with their invaluable opinions, comments and suggestions.

Design Process of the METU Web Pages

The proceedings we have gone through during the redesign process of currently used METU web pages can be outlined basically under the following topics:

Improvement of the information structure
Design studies
Technical infrastructure
Content studies

Improvement of the Information Structure
The first pursuit to take up was to deal with the structure of METU web pages that was in use a considerable length of time between 1997-2000. The structure is rearranged firstly to achieve a more reasonable and balanced organization of the information, secondly to provide a simpler and easier handling of the pages by the users. The main pages and the first-level sublinks are organized with respect to the investigations on the web pages of foreign universities and the results of the questionnaire distributed in METU. Collecting and evaluating the opinions of the users and trying to fulfill the maximum amount of needs and expectations of people, we have eventually attained the structure, which is currently available on web. Moreover, the site was prepared in Turkish as well, a characteristic of the new pages as apart from the former designs.

Design Studies
Initially, a considerable number of design proposals have been prepared concerning the METU web site. These designs were coming into being as the project was progressing with the feedbacks gleaned from the results of questionnaires, the studies of the focus group, the tests and various other undertakings. It was important for us to cover the demands and expectations of a broad range of audience. Keeping this in mind, feedbacks from the CC personnel have been requested periodically. Thus, we were able to concentrate our attention on the issues matching the expectations as well as conforming to the techniques of design process. You can visit this link to view some of the design studies.

Technical Infrastructure
In parallel with the standart practices extending far and wide in the world, the computer hardware infrastructure in METU campus targets those users using 800x600 solubility and 14" monitor. For this reason, the magnitudes of the solubility above 800x600, such as 640x480, 1024x768 etc. and different types of monitors, such as 15", 17", 19" etc. may not produce the same quality of display. We have decided that php programming language would be advantageous for the following reasons:

the systems in Computer Center are Unix-based (php is compatible with Unix and runs more effectively on Unix-based systems),
php runs faster than the other web programming languages,
databases are essential for creating dynamic and interactive web pages (such as Announcements and Activities pages) compared with the other programming languages. php runs together with every database much more effectively, comfortably and faster.
php provides more convenience in site management,

Consequently, the structure of the web server had been modified to be able to install php on it. The directory structure of the web server is reorganized to facilitate the effective management and maintenance of the web pages.

A statistical software is installed on the web server to obtain statistical data about the usage of the web pages. Our goal is to find out more about the number of visits to the page, the number of hits and the most/least frequently visited pages. These statistical information will provide us with clues when we are hopeless about deciding which pages we should promote according to interests of the users. The information we derive from the statistical data will later be used for various purposes such as enriching the content, improving the pages' visual characteristics, employing the web server more efficaciously etc..

Programs are developed in order for the departments and academic units to interactively provide content for the "Announcements" and "Activities" pages. These programs enabled the departments and units to announce their events and activities on web pages directly (without a mediator); within a certain mechanism whose rules and operating principles are set beforehand. Utilization of cascading style sheets on pages provided a standard for the font size, font type and color. dhtml and JavaScript provided faster access to program menus and easier navigation possibilities. A web server has been configured for further design studies, applications and to develop and experiment with new tools.

Content Studies
In order to compile the information that will be presented on the new web pages, firstly, the information, which already exists, has been brought together and examined. Secondly, the information has been updated, corrected, proofread and made complete after getting in touch with the departments and persons that have affiliations with the content. Content studies involve the task of obtaining information from the sources (people and units), to make up for the cases where information is non-existent. Translation studies have been carried out to provide both Turkish and English content for the site. Various tools, which were not available on the former web pages, have been developed. The tools that were available on former web pages have been rearranged. All of these tools are as follows:

Announcements: When the academic/administrative units would like their announcements to appear on web, this system will enable them to submit their announcements via web, in other words, they will be using the authorized academic/administrative unit codes (ECS-Electronic Communication System) to submit the announcement. The users will, then, be able to view all the announcements on web via various search mechanisms,

Activities: When the academic/administrative units would like their activity announcements to appear on web, this system will enable them to submit their announcements by using the authorized academic/administrative unit codes (ECS-Electronic Communication System). The users will, then, be able to view all the activity announcements of the units on web via various search mechanisms,

Site Map:This page is a site guide that displays all the links of subtitles available on METU web site,

Phonebook: This is an on-line phonebook that contains all the information of METU Phonebook 2000. Users can make various sorts of queries by employing different criteria and they can search all the department and personnel contact information of METU,

For Prospective Students: This page aims to give general information about METU to high school students. It is prepared with regard to the information derived from METU Student Booklet, which is a publication of Directorate of Public Relations,

About TURKEY:This page takes into consideration METU's international perspective and guides the foreigners to various web pages on Turkey prepared by a variety of sources,

Search Engine:This search engine enables the users to make queries among the information available on METU web pages,

Web Search:The links to most popular search engines are brought together on this page to provide easy access to people who would like to search the web,

METU in Pictures:The page aims to present METU with a collection of photos that enable the users to explore numerous sights in METU,

Send Feedback:This is a communication tool with which the users can send comments and suggestions about METU web pages.

Tests have been performed after much of the design process was completed. The site was placed on to a field that was also open to users in Computer Center and to the people who had enough experience and knowledge to be able to comment on the new design of the pages. The comments and suggestions of this group were requested between August 9-13, 2000. These comments and suggestions were evaluated later on. The process of design and content studies was carried further with regard to these evaluations of the opinions of our users. After this initial test, the user feedback was requested recurrently. It was decided in those days to continue receiving feedback from our users even after the site is introduced into service. Apart from this initial test, which was performed to get feedback about the visual features of the site, the test of the Announcements and Activities systems have been carried out between October 16-20, 2000 in real circumstances. The two systems were introduced into service for the use of departments in METU on a server that was set for experimental purposes. This test was also contributive to the process since it was a means to demonstrate the systems to the university departments and to discover possible problems and errors that may arise during the operation of these systems.

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© 2001 METU CC
Design: CC - INFO