#wcbos: Web Strategy in Higher Education

Web strategy defined: The translation of the organizational objectives and values into high-level management directives for the web. This will be Jay Collier’s focus for this morning.

Common principles for web strategy:

  • Be dependable – Anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • Be intuitive – Simple publishing, searching, finding
  • Be helpful – Helpful information and instructions
  • Be interesting – Appealing, personal, immersive
  • Be welcoming – Online spaces for collaboration

Not often is there one sponsor for web strategy; there are generally multiple. Question how long your web strategy is going to be in place, and whether that’s an appropriate timeline. Thinking about why you’re doing it, vision and principles, and figure out what exactly you’ll do and how to measure it.

In determining which platform to deploy, or functionality to implement, Jay recommends having stakeholders list features and prioritize on a 1-10 basis.

A “domain architecture” map will help you understand all of the requirements by department, and how they interrelate.

Lafayette College has integrated WordPress in all aspects of their publishing.

Queen’s College in Australia has gone as far as focus their homepage entirely on prospective students. All other content lives elsewhere on the site, and is accessible after community members receive a login.

#wcnyc: Performance & Optimization

Matt Martz (@sivel) and Scott Taylor led one of the first sessions on WordPress performance and optimization.

“High performance is not high availability.”

Matt manages five personal servers, including one load balancer, two web servers, and two database servers. The Nginx load balancer is a 512 MB slice from Slicehost, web servers are Nginx with FastCGI and 1 GB a piece, and the MySQL database servers are 512 MB. HyperDB is a WordPress plugin which allows you to partition out your database. Matt has it configured such that reads are done from all of his databases, while writes are only to the master database.

Caching is done with Memcached, PHP APC caching, and Batcache. WordPress.com is Memcached, HyperDB and Batcached. LoadImpact.com allows you to load test your site with between 10 and 50 concurrent users and will give you the page load times based on the number of users. Matt’s load times start at about 1.75 seconds and actually go down over time because caching kicks in.

GlusterFS is a system utility to replicate data across all of your production web servers. Upload an image to one, copy to every. GlusterFS is nice because it works on both physical and virtual machines. Matt has the WordPress directory, PHP directory, and Nginx configuration syncing across his web servers.

In total, he easily handles 4 million pageviews/month across all of the machines.

“If it appears slow, it’s often because of the front-end.”

Scott Taylor discussed front-end optimization.

First, ensure the HTML code you write is semantically correct. The TwentyTen theme packaged with WordPress is a good example to follow. Overrides follow the rule of IDs first, then classes, then elements.

Combine scripts from different plugins to just one script to improve load times.

YSlow and Google Page Speed are good tools for front-end development. YSlow will tell you to make less HTTP requests, add expires heads, use Gzip (same thing as deflate), reduce the number of DOM elements, specify absolute image dimensions and a favicon, and cache AJAX requests.

Recommended resources from Scott include: Rasmus Lerdorf at Digg, anything from Steve Souders, and writing from Douglas Crockford.