Rolling out a new front page for 2016

Rolling out a new front page for 2016

Well, we are bit behind on the scheduled launch (I was hoping we would have it ready the first week of class) but we’ve gone ahead and flipped the switch on a new OU Create homepage, the main entrance to the OU domains project.

This is version 3.0 for OU Create. 1.0 was created simply as an informational page for the pilot. 2.0 focused around showcasing the community and honing in on support material. 3.0 mostly asethetic changes–focused around moving beyond educating the community on what OU Create is to enhancing functionality. More than anything, we want our users to get to the CPanel quickly. Create.ou.edu is, after all, a portal more than anything else.

Moving Login to the Front Page

One of the major things that we wanted to add this year was login access from the start page. Our inspiration was Tumblr which has a beautiful landing page focused on getting you to your Dashboard.

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Taking the same approach, I went on a hunt for how to put a WordPress login box on any page. Unfortunately, most of my search came up dry as most plugins UI falls short of 2016 UI design standards.

I finally landed on an article at designmodo called Building a Custom WordPress Login Form with Flat UI. Flat UI is a free Bootstrap theme and I’ve became very fond of the Bootstrap framework over the last six month so gave it a shot.

The plugin and shortcode worked like a charm. I had to change one line of code so that users would be redirected to their CPanel Dashboard. Line 45 became this:

And that’s all she took.

I also found a plugin called Saeid Simple Text Rotator which is based on a jQuery plugin Super Simple Text Rotator by Pete RÀ la how Alan Levine and Brian Lamb tempt you with what SPLOT enigma could possibly be, I wanted to tease out what OU Create could do without bogging down the user with something like icons layed out over columns. The final product was this:

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By the way, isn’t that silhouette of campus just gorgeous? Fun fact: its a CC0 Public Domain picture that was taken by CTE’s own Keegan Long-Wheeler on his iPad of course, because he’s our resident mobile freak ;-). We just used a little bit of Photoshop work to change it from a daytime picture to nice dawn skyline.

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Keegan was nice enough to do several campus pictures and upload them to the CTE Flickr page and put a CC0 license to them. Check them out.

Going Fully Responsive

One thing that I’m a little embarassed about is that we’ve had responsive turned off on the landing page for quite some time. But the fact was that we hadn’t made a lot of design choices that were super effective for mobile as we were assuming that most users would be coming to OU Create via desktops and laptops. While this is true (95% of our traffic is, indeed, desktop) we do classroom visits all the time to get students setup on domains and several of them are only packing a mobile device. It felt time to finally flip that switch.

And, man, how good it feels to have something that reads well on mobile! Over all the changes, I’m probably most proud of how well the websites translates to the phone screen.

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Bringing An Indie Aesthetic

Last month, Jim Groom profiled how Reclaim Hosting is reclaiming an aesthetic to showcase how it is supporting Indie EdTech. I thought it would be nice to drop a little nod to Indie EdTech into the over OU Create look in feel. So you’ll now find this little guy peeking out in the background:

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Developing Locally

Last, the other thing that I’ve been doing a bit differently is actually developing locally and then moving to a live environment. Last month I completed several courses on WordPress development and highly suggest the Local WordPress Development course from Team Treehouse. Honestly, because one-click installs and applications like Installatron make standing up WordPress so easy, I hadn’t thought much about local development. But it’s fairly easy to stand up WordPress on your own computer and develop there with tools like MAMP and Sublime Text. As I get further into WordPress development, my goal is to develop locally but host the files on both my machine as well as a Github repository, so that anyone can follow along as I attempt to development my own custom theme.

2016

We’re hoping the new landing page is some inspiration for a wonderful year on OU Create (we’re up 100 domains since the turn of the calendar). May this be the most domain-iest year yet.

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