Building a website

One of the most important aspects of the IT rep's role is to maintain the JCR website, and for the fifth time in five years, I too, am rebuilding the website.

My Plans for the site

As noted in the JCR review, and feedback survey, the website should be an integral part of any modern JCR. It should serve as more than a noticeboard and hall menu. I would like to see this website used for the planning of events, as a friendly and informal discussion area and as a record of the committee's activity, and that of previous committees. It should be an open and relaxed environment, embodying the best of the JCR and of St. Anne's College.

Challenges

The most immediate challenge when building a website like this is to ensure that a pattern of use is built up. There is no point creating a website with a massive number of features that are never used. However, if these features only begin to scratch the surface and the website is not expanded, usage again will wane. There must be a committed effort from all members to contribute to the website: freshers should see that this is a valuable resource that is utilised, returning students should see that this is more than just a way to check what's for dinner this week.

The question is then, how to achieve this? All the societies within St. Anne's are invited to post about their activity, and to pot term cards if they produce them. There is a blog open to all members of the JCR for them to use as they see fit. There is a forum for all members to use, complete with a suggestion box: I am listening to the community, and if a requested feature looks feasible, I will do my best to implement it.

The Process

The most important decisions to make when building a new website revolve around hosting and frameworks. If you think of building a house, where do I want it/what type of land do I want it on, and what's it going to be made from/what scaffolding will be used? I chose the hosting company based on the amount of storage offered and the bandwidth available. One of the main complaints about the previous iteration was that it was too slow to load. This version will hopefully rectify that. Additionally, e-mail addresses are provided as part of the package, thus allowing the committee to have individual addresses that ensure continuity between committees.

The framework used allows more flexibility than Wordpress, with a greater degree of customisation and granularity between users. Moderation tools on the forum can be accessed by the committee simply by setting up a committee group, rather than setting each individual committee member up as a moderator.  This also ensures that when the next committee is elected, all that they need to know is the relevant set of credentials, rather than transferring e-mail addresses, etc.

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