WordPress “Office Hours”

Anyone who has spent time on a college campus probably knows about office hours. Traditionally they’re set by faculty so that their students have a time they can come by and meet with the professor face-to-face to get feedback on their semester, help with an assignment — whatever they need.

Avent Ferry Complex

2114 Avent Ferry Road, Room 106

Our office wants to do the same for WordPress. As of April 10th, we’re announcing the availability of WordPress Office Hours. From 9am until noon every Friday morning OIT Design staff will be available in room 106 of the Avent Ferry Complex, 2114 Avent Ferry Road.

The idea is that anyone who has WordPress questions, whether it be detailed problems with a specific site or generic questions about the tool and how it can be used, can come by and talk with us. We’ll be able to take time one-on-one and offer advice or walk you through a process or look for the right solution for your WordPress problem.

Due to our schedules you may find only one of us here but usually we’ll both be available on any given Friday. While you do not have to be clients of ours – we’re happy to help anyone who wants to come by – please understand that if we don’t have access to your site, or know how it was built, there may be a limit to the amount of help we can provide.

So that’s the deal! Hopefully this will be something that people are anxious to take advantage of and find helpful. We’ve already had one successful test and I think that many folks on campus will find it helpful to know they have some place to go for face-to-face assistance. By all means, if you have feedback about this new service please let us know! You can email us at oitdesign@ncsu.edu.

WordPress 4.1 and New Themes

On December 18, 2014, WordPress released version 4.1. We will be updating OIT WordPress clients to the new version in the coming days. In the meantime, here are some of the new features available to users:

  • Improved Distraction-Free Writing Mode – When enabled, everything except your WordPress post editor gently fades away while you write.
    dfw-screen-1024x614
  • Improved Media Embeds – Media from websites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and SoundCloud can be embedded in your content in a smooth and easy way.
  • New API Support and Template Tags – WordPress has added new options for developers building a new theme.

In addition, we are in the process of evaluating new WordPress themes for use in our WordPress Blog Service. We have added three new themes to the service so far:

  • Twenty Fifteen – The latest default WordPress theme, easy to set up and easy to use.
    twentyfifteen
  • Independent Publisher – A simple and clean blogging theme.
    independentpublisher
  • Virtue – A flexible and very customizable theme suitable anything from a simple blog to a fully-featured organization website.
    virtue

These three themes are now available for WordPress Blogs users. You can see the full list of available themes at wordpress.ncsu.edu.

The Latest on OIT Flex for WordPress…

Aside

Some of our very astute and dedicated followers (if we have such a thing) might notice that the look of this site has changed quite significantly. In an attempt to match the new campus brand we’re working on updates to the OIT Flex theme that is used by many sites on campus. We’re still in the early phases – testing, double-checking our accessibility, and mobile experience, trying out some theme variations – but we hope to make this available soon in the new year. This site gets to be our guinea pig.

In the meantime we’re also looking for solutions for updating this theme in our various environments. In the past we’ve used the Theme Updater plugin to seamlessly prompt for updates when we pushed a change to Github. Sadly that plugin is no longer being maintained so we’re taking some time to look for other solutions that will allow us to do this update without impacting the configurations for those already using OIT Flex. Hopefully we’ll have more good news on that front in the new year as well.

In the meantime we’re keeping busy with our client projects, internal projects (more to come on these soon…), our own project management efforts, and lots of other to-do items as we look to roll into a very busy 2015. Enjoy your holiday break and we’ll see you next year!

2014 Conferences: HighEdWeb and UNC CAUSE

Fall is one of those crazy times of year when everything seems to happen at once and the past few weeks and moths have been no exception. In case you haven’t heard, we hired a new guy, Brian. Wohoo! Welcome, Brian!

In addition I had back-to-back conferences in October: HighEdWeb in Portland October 18-22 and then UNC CAUSE, October 29-31. A quick recap of both events…

HighEdWeb

Brilliant. Loved it. Two thumbs up. Would recommend. This was my first time at HighEdWeb but it turns out it’s the perfect conference for the job I do. It’s people from all over the world who work in higher education and deliver content and functionality via the web. The people there were great and their problems were my problems and we had lots to talk about.

I actually started HighEdWedb with some leadership training the two days before the conference and I think that was helpful. I was able to meet some people that I could check in with during the conference but we also had a very diverse range of backgrounds and skills. The leadership sessions covered everything from management to governance for people in different types and sizes of schools.

The conference itself wasn’t as technical as I kind of wanted but that’s not really the point of the conference – a fact I was reminded of after going to a couple sessions. We spend so much time solving technical problems we’ve forgotten the importance of some of the other elements of site-building: the content and architecture, usability, training, day-to-day organization, and planning for the larger picture. It was these messages in particular that I tried to bring back and I really think our processes and habits need to improve. I spend so much time putting out fires it’s hard to get focused so this is one of the areas I’m working on.

UNC CAUSE

This was not as relevant to me as it has been in past years. There was a lot of Learning Management and technology in the classroom in this year’s sessions.

There were a couple that related to campus web content that were very helpful. One was UNC-Charlotte’s sessions outlining their implementation of Drupal for campus. Sounds like it’s been largely adopted, much like the way App St. has done it and that’s fabulous. I don’t think that model works for NCSU but there were elements of it I really liked (such as the way their web staff works with campus clients) and I’m always intrigued by the economies of scale that are possible with a single web solution.
The other session was UNC-CH’s demo of their WordPress multisite environment. It’s so similar to our (and was in fact the inspiration for me to start up our Blog and Hosted WP services) so it was really nice to see where they are a couple years down the road. We really need to hang out with these guys more often.

That’s my recap for now but keep checking back — Brian and I are working on a couple things for the site and we hope to do a much better job of keeping this site updated with new experiences, projects, etc.

The New Guy

As I settle in at NCSU OIT– and as we wake the OIT Design site from its recent slumber– I thought I would write a short blog post introducing myself.

My name is Brian DeConinck, and I’m the latest addition to the OIT Design group, replacing Ross and giving Jen some much-needed support. I’m a WordPress designer and developer (minus a three-year detour at WebAssign on Centennial Campus), and I’ll be working with Jen as we transition more of campus over to WordPress.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you and getting to know the NC State community a bit better!