Your thoughts on our agency portal, please?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by SrWebDeveloper, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. SrWebDeveloper macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #1
    Hi, all. Remember me? I've been away for awhile, and here's what I've been doing:

    http://www.mbda.gov

    This is our brand new portal for our client, a government agency. The objective of the site design was to allow the public fast and easy access to agency content and business tools while maintaining a modern corporate look and feel. Guess what folks - it's 100% Drupal CMS with a LAMP server setup, PHP/MySQL along with Oracle/Coldfusion for legacy business tools. This is a product of the open source initiative in government, i.e. the same kind of general platform is used for the White House web site among others both state and federal.

    Sure, I'm proud of our work and wish to show it off, but also recognize nobody's perfect so I welcome criticism.

    Thanks! :cool:

    -jim
     
  2. 184550 Guest

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    #2
    Not a critique of the actual website, more of a critque of who ever wrote/ approved this line of text:

    'What MBDA Does?'

    IMO this seems to be more of a statement rather than a question.

    But I'm not an English major, so maybe this makes sense to someone else.
     

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  3. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #3
    <code>
    <!-- OPTIONAL: Any extra Piwik (Analytics) tracking code other than that generate by the module - add below -->
    </code>

    This little bit looks a unprofessional to me, how about stripping comments out with php before the page is sent out if these comments are needed internally.

    Other than that the site looks very nice and professional, and of course it is nice to see you back.

    I am most interested in how many servers your running on and the expected traffic for this infrastructure and if this site is to cater to very large traffic volumes what did you take into consideration over a smaller clients website.
     
  4. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #4
    Both issues raised are content related. The agency hires a Content Manager who gathers content from the various business units and agency staff, vetted before being published, believe it or not. Nobody claims the government is full of English majors, believe me. :p Even the PiWik tracking code is entered through a Drupal module in the CMS, not manually into the footer template.

    As developer, such matters are beyond my direct control in this heirchy!

    I'll pass along both issues to our CM, of course. Don't expect miracles!

    ;)

    -jim

    ps: The exact nature and policies regarding the hardware infrastructure is not for public knowledge - this is a government site. Let's just say there's a cloud involved, load balancing and virtual servers. Our analytics are not for public consumption.
     
  5. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

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    Scotland
    #5
    Strange that information like that is so secretive, i would think a government site would have to disclose how much it is costing the tax payer and more to the point if that cost is justified.

    Though for me i am just more interested in how the gears work than what colour they are.
     
  6. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #6
    It's called network security - the other information I gave in the original post can all be discovered easily due to the HTTP headers and so forth. But in the case of the government, they're so anal about security all passwords must expire within 60 days and they don't even allow full server hostnames and complete IP addresses to be sent in email between employees. Your tax dollars can reveal the operating budgets and basic expenses for IT infrastructure and manpower, but do you think the NSA is going to let you know all about their hardware?

    I could tell you, but, of course, then I'd have to kill you.

    :eek:

    LOL

    Okay, enough talking about the servers, any more feedback on the actual web site?
     
  7. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Scotland
    #7
    Apart from the little box at the bottom of the page, where does it tell me exactly what service the site offers.

    Overall most of the content is very accessible using my screen assistive devices and software except for that one point that i don't know right away what i have clicked on.

    I love the upcoming events, that it tells you right away the scope of these. That is a really handy little feature some people would overlook.

    I love that the social media icons are so so so small :) :) :)

    I think the "Grow Your Business Blog" could be more prominent it looks like a really interesting feature to be so out of the way on the main page, but perhaps thats just me.

    Font are really good and clear except the light blue fonts on the dark blue backgrounds are quite hard to read and quite blurry.

    The logo is nice and simple, is this something that was already produced or something you did?
     
  8. manueld macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    #8
    I would suggest adding better focus to the content, when I first loaded the site, after looking at the banner header, my eye couldn't figure out what to focus on. The text on the sidebar is larger than the main content along with the blue background it's just really trying to pull my eye away while my natural tendency is to look at the left.
     
  9. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #9
    The various links in the header. If you're wondering why no mission statement at the top, the truth is I don't know why. But playing devil's advocate, you won't see one on whitehouse.gov either! But people know what the site is about. Same with most government agencies where the agency name defines the business purpose. Not my personal opinion, just food for thought. The overall home page content likely tells the story.

    Nice to hear. Don't follow you on that last point, be more specific please?

    Check out the calendar, too, linked in the bottom right of that block. This was done with a customized view using Drupal's VIEWS module and it totally rocks.

    The site is integrated with our Facebook and Twitter pages plus others, thanks for noticing.

    Me, too. But the public affairs people didn't think so! Making it more prominent on the home page was voted down. Intra-departmental warfare at its bloodiest!

    Hard to read due to contrast, sure. Blurry?? You need eye drops for that! LOL Seriously, yes, we might be correcting some colors in the next phase. It's more complex than most sites because our 3 major themes (tabs at the top) each has their own stylesheets so its 3 times the effort.

    Been our agency logo for about 8 years.

    -jim
     
  10. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #10
    Yeah, one of the pitfalls of placing so much content on a home page is it competes. But the web architect who designed it had to deal with business units who all wanted recognition. As with all new web sites, over time the home page is weeded down as the analytics will show which areas deserve more attention than others. For now they're equal metrics, so to speak, and let the competition begin.

    -jim
     
  11. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #11
    Turn on accessibility in Mac OS then put a blind fold on and try to navigate the site, it can be hard to tell which page your on. Now my vision is not quite so severe so i can tell there is a change but there will be people accessing the site with worse vision than me.

    Often just a hidden div at the top of the page saying "Content updated 1 day ago, Content about bla bla bla". It really helps when your trying to find the page your looking for.
     
  12. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #12
    With a blindfold on, it would be hard to find the keyboard! I'm kidding, I know what you meant. Seriously, most modern screen readers - the kind used by legally blind people as described in section 508 - speak the title tag, alt tags and title/longdesc attributes in links as well as content. We use them as developers, we hope our content manager does, and all URL's are friendly and tie into the title tag when applicable. The Mac OS accessibility feature I've not tried yet, but I will at home. We don't use Mac's at work, thanks for the suggestion. BTW, we won't do the hidden div, this is because content is placed and updated dynamically - i.e. one page might have content from another or more than one piece of major content and each might be updated separately. The agency opted not to display "last updated" info for articles because they get updated very infrequently. Also, our content manager does update the story date as part of the procedure when modifying articles.

    Hope this answers all your questions!
     
  13. design-is macrumors 65816

    design-is

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2007
    Location:
    London / U.K.
    #13
    Hi SrWebby :) Noticed you haven't been around for a while - good to see you back!

    From a visual perspective, it's busy, but it's pretty nice.

    A few nit-picks:

    • "Select language - Powered by Google Translate" seems like an afterthought, plonked at the top with no element on the left side to balance it out, just empty white space. It also seems to pop in after the page has loaded?
    • A lot of buttons don't have hover states - I prefer links and buttons to react when I can click them.
    • Second image in the featured content slider is too compressed - text in the image looks messy with compression artefacts.
    • Text is maybe a tad small throughout, but that doesn't really bother me.
    • And what manueld said.

    Not much though :)

    Good job!

    /Doug
     
  14. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #14
    I'll try to be back more, but they got us so busy. We're designing the intranet now (which I can't show you) including a cool app that ties Drupal into LDAP/AD for our employee directory.

    This agency won't spend money on a commercial on the fly language translation service and they don't want an English/Spanish portal where content is entered twice. Nor did they hire a bi-lingual Content Manager (CM), so we added the freebie Google. It pops in a little late since it's JS driven, generating the pulldown which is not cached by Drupal.

    I do not feel there has to be perfect symmetry for all designs, i.e. because we put Google on the right something must balance it on the left. It's not the most elegant looking thing (Google controls that, not us) but its free.

    The rest of what you added is right on, i.e. button hover actions and some compression issues on images. The CM also added those pics via upload after we finished the development of the slideshow admin portion, of course. There is a web standards document, but as usual, when you rush things out...

    Text size depends alot on your screen resolution, platform and browser, but we use very "common" sizes such as 12px for articles and 11px for almost all else, 22 or so for titles and so on. Larger fonts usually look less corporate, hence the choice for 11-12px for most of the content. It's really subjective, too.

    I addressed busy earlier, i.e. the home page will slim down a bit over time as usually is the case. But the graphs, charts and slideshow are intended to make the user feel it's a "business" site, which it really is. The agency helps minority businesses, after all.

    Thanks so much for your excellent feedback. Hope my responses seem fair and not too protective or anal retentive! :p

    -jim
     
  15. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

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    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #15
    Just a quick question when you say minority businesses is that the American term for a small business?
     
  16. SrWebDeveloper thread starter macrumors 68000

    SrWebDeveloper

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    #16
    "Minority" refers to what the government calls "socially disadvantaged" groups, as found in the listing the Small Business Administration (SBA) maintains here: http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/8abd/faqs/index.html (see "Who are socially disadvantaged....."). The SBA is for any small business, minority or otherwise, but they offer information on and access to special certifications so minority businesses can benefit from state or local grants, loans, contracts, business services and business networking.

    Our site helps point people in the right direction to seek certifications and proper accreditation and business services and tools for those already certified or accredited as a minority business. MBDA does not loan money or offer grants or do we certify businesses directly.

    I'm not a business analyst or public affairs for MBDA, just the lowly web development guy, so hope this made sense.

    -jim
     

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