A note from the editors: Each month, a new author from the W3C will keep you informed on what we're up to—and how you can be a part of it. This month's column is from Ian Jacobs, Head of W3C Communications.
In 2014, W3C turns 20. In web years that’s something like 200.
We last redesigned the W3C homepage and other top pages in 2008 to provide more content, clearer navigation, and other conventions of site design. But a lot has changed in five years, and we want to revamp the site in time for our twentieth birthday.
For starters, more industries, such as television, automotive, digital publishing, digital signage, and gaming, have embraced the web. We need more content tuned to those industries. In addition to those new audiences, participation in W3C has grown by several thousand since the launch of Community Groups in 2011, and with it the demand for an improved user experience.
The device landscape has also evolved. In 2008, we built in support for various screen sizes and devices. (Dominique Hazael-Massieux wrote up his findings for ALA on how to reach the most desktops and mobile devices with CSS media queries.) Five years later, we need to consider many more form factors and user interfaces for ebooks, television, automotive, and digital signage.
In 2012, we launched webplatform.org as the new home for developer and designer resources. A whole class of content will live there rather than on w3.org. We need to revisit our current material and ensure the sites are complementary. Fortunately, standards have evolved to facilitate our more ambitious goals. We can now take advantage of HTML5, new CSS properties, support for SVG, and many other emerging standards. There are new tools as well. In 2008 we built a content management system from scratch to use and support standards. I’m eager to find another solution.
To rejuvenate the W3C website for its old and new friends, I’m leading a task force to create a roadmap for an improved site. For the next five months, we’ll look at our assets and interview our various audiences to prioritize their needs and propose ways to fulfill them. In July, we’ll present a comprehensive plan to W3C management and, if approved, launch the redesign.
Our site serves several million pages, so we’ll discuss priorities. Beyond the top pages, we’ll discuss working group subsites, industry-specific landing pages, mailing list archives, the Member internal site, and more. I expect we’ll also study the W3C technical report style. In 2008, we created a new template, but didn’t use it. Since then, there have been experiments in the CSS Working Group, but more work needs to be done.
We’ll also revisit some of the balances we struck at the time, such as navigation through content for both technical and non-technical audiences, and supporting diverse authoring environments while maintaining design consistency. We’ll discuss what social features would best support our standards activities, which are fundamentally collaborative. We’ll look at infrastructure options and come up with a budget and timeline for implementing the project. In parallel, a related task force will focus on visual identity for the W3C brand, which will inform this site task force’s work. The goal is to launch in 2014.
I invite A List Apart readers (and web developers and designers generally) to suggest your priorities for a new w3.org to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to volunteer for this phase of the project—to write the plan to redesign w3.org—please contact me. We’ll benefit from diverse skills: project management, information architecture and design, content strategy, tooling, and more.
I look forward to building a better w3.org that serves you well for years to come.