I T S header graphic. Link to UHINFO. Link to ITS homepage. Link to ITS homepage.
InfobITS logo, volume 7, number 1, spring 2001.


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UHINFO Makeover
by Gordon K. Uyehara

If you have recently visited UHINFO , the homepage for the University of Hawaii, you've noticed that it looks a bit different. It's sporting a new hairstyle with warm colors to match. And like someone turning over a new leaf, closer inspection reveals that some of the changes are more than just skin deep. Sure it is far from perfect, as some individuals have pointed out, but UHINFO is receiving its share of compliments too. Additionally, the new look has prompted some good suggestions for improvement, which the development team continues to work into the site. UHINFO is constantly changing for the better. For now, though, let's explore some of its current attributes.

The Features

The flyout menus on the main page is the feature most often asked about. By using flyout menus, many links are available from the main page but are not initially visible. Sub-menus appear as the mouse passes over the list of main topics. We tried several different types of menus but the one from the University of Washington was the most appealing. It was a bit more flexible than the others and adjusted to the bottom of the window nicely. Another selling point was that the menu technique was well documented. The flyout menu setup consists of two main javascript files. One contains the coding to create the menus and the other contains the actual submenu and link information. The flyout menus have not yet been modified to work with Netscape 6.

A message space has been established on the upper right corner of the page. Currently, it is being used for announcements, reminders, or to familiarize the public with some of UHINFO's features. It consists of a simple graphic file with a link, if appropriate. Our student assistant, Bryce Wong, created a script that takes an input text file containing the image file name, link, and ALT information, and outputs a file with that information in html form. The output file is then included in the homepage. To manage this feature, we have a viewing page consisting of upcoming messages along with their corresponding beginning and ending dates.

Another feature to point out is the incorporation of a new Ultraseek search engine. The main difference you should experience over the previous (and free) HT Dig engine is speed. There should also be improved relevance in your search results. The new search engine is easier to maintain and also provides us with statistics. Refer to the image below for other header features.

Graphic of UHINFO header area.

The University News and Calendar of Events sections appear at the bottom of the page. The University news releases list is a carry over from the previous UHINFO. In this iteration, the top five items from the News Releases page (www.hawaii.edu/ur/releases.html) are listed here. Each item is a link to the full news release article. The Calendar of Events listing is new to the UHINFO front page. Ward Takamiya, one of our ITS specialists, created scripts to extract the current events from our Happenings database and format them so they can be included with the homepage. Additionally, there are links to UH Community Views (where the public can comment on University issues) and to our Accessibility Resources page . Refer to the image below for all the features in the bottom area.

Graphic of UHINFO bottom area.

Keeping it Current

A CGI script generates the source for the homepage at timed intervals. This is set up as a CRON job (scheduled, re-occurring execution) so that items included on the homepage are kept up to date. The scripts for time sensitive features such as the events and news releases are also set to run at regular intervals, with their updates included each time the homepage is regenerated.

The New Look

Some like vanilla; some like mocha-almond fudge. Even the most neutral minded will have an opinion about how a Web page looks. The goal here was to find some middle ground. So we can perhaps say that it is simple without being simplistic and having some color without being trashy. The palm leaf and bird-of-paradise motif, along with the inter-playing dark green titles and tan background, was employed in order to invoke an island feel. Interestingly, we were later informed that the bird-of-paradise is not an endemic species (admittedly, the author took the easy way out on this one since the bird-of-paradise graphic was available and required little modification to use). Replacing the bird-of-paradise with a native flower will be a later improvement.

Visually, a specific goal was to reduce clutter. With this in mind, we tried to eliminate unnecessary objects and words without reducing functionality. We selected a sans serif font and used larger headings to make it easy to quickly scan the page for content. Additionally, most subsequent pages utilize the same header and footer to promote consistency. As for the photos, many were carried over from the previous version of UHINFO with minor modifications. New photos and graphics were added to increase visual interest as well.

Continuous Improvements

UHINFO is, essentially, never done. We are constantly working to improve UHINFO so that the University community and the rest of the world can easily get to the information they need. Sometimes UHINFO doesn't succeed in this and people inform us when something should be improved, added, or when there are links to update. We appreciate the feedback. To be sure, we try to respond to all of the mail we receive in a timely manner -- not only the ones that request help or which contain useful suggestions, but even those that curiously demand, "the 'Jik-Ji' (the oldest metal printed book) must be returned to Korea.1

1Currently in the possession of the National Library of France.


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Updated: April 04, 2001