‘See a mess’ to CMS – part three

Last year Te Ara made the biggest change since it launched, with our move to the Drupal content management system (CMS). However, on the surface little has changed. This is part of a series of posts that will try to explain why it’s exciting for us and why we hope it’s exciting for you. We’ve broken the story into three parts: Te Ara past, present and future.

Te Ara future

In part one and two I covered why we moved to the Drupal CMS, what we changed along the way, and suggested that the move allows Te Ara to evolve in the future. Well it’s twenty ten now … it is the future … what’s changing?

New homepage

New homepage design (click for larger view)

Homepage version 3

It’s hard to know what should be on the homepage of an encyclopedia. Should it get out of the way and allow users to find the content they’re looking for – simply consisting of a range of navigation and search options. Should its primary focus be to promote elements of the diverse content within? Or should its focus be to indicate what’s new and fresh on the site?

We took on board what users were telling us and mixed it with the ideas from the Te Ara team. Looking back, we were trying to please everyone, and after a lot of wireframing and concepts, user testing confirmed we were trying to do too much.

The final design is far simpler, and I can’t wait for it to go live (by the end of next week) and see what our users think.

Regular publishing

Other than the four Places stories we publish each year, we publish one theme (consisting of around 100 stories) every 14 months. As each theme landed online it became obvious Te Ara needed to publish more often. Unfortunately, between our CMS and our internal workflow, it has been an enormous challenge to reach this goal. Our new CMS, Drupal, enables us to quickly assemble new content, get it signed off and publish it … in theory. We’re still tweaking the workflow process, but the goal will be reached, and all new stories will be published as they’re finished.

The DNZB on Te Ara

Integrating the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Along with regular publishing, the encyclopedia will also be bolstered by the inclusion of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB). The DNZB contains over 3,000 biographies of people who have ‘made their mark’ on this country. Once migrated, we aim to link all mentions of these notable people in the encyclopedia to their biography.

Improved linking

Probably the biggest challenge facing us is improving the links between Te Ara content. Improving our related stories list is a small step towards improving linking, but our main focus is to introduce links throughout the text. So if a line mentions wētā it links to Wētā. Unfortunately, doing this dynamically has turned out to be incredibly complicated. We have since discovered there are teams around the world struggling with this same issue. A post about the issues, potential solutions, and our progress will be coming later in the year.

Other stuff to look forward to

The new media player

The new media player (click for larger view)

Several other improvements and additions are planned for this year, including improving our search results, navigation and tweaking the design throughout the site.

This year we will also be including clips from from NZ on Screen and The New Zealand Film Archive, and will improve the way we compress and present video we receive from institutions like TVNZ, TV3, and Archives New Zealand. And wait there’s more! To go with this improved video presentation we are updating our media player.

Those are our priorities. What do you think we should change, fix, improve or even remove?

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