What geeks do on spring break: web design. Yep. I’m spending at least a small part of my spring break overhauling the English department web site. It’s what I do in the afternoons, usually, when I’m done writing for the day and want something a little less demanding. The site needs a facelift, to be sure. No serious work has been done on it for at least two or three years. Notice my use of the passive voice in that last sentence: a more honest version would read I have not done any serious work on it for two or three years.

The good news is that the GVSU homebrewed content management system (CMS) is a much, much better design tool than it was a few years ago. It’s now possible to use CSS, and there are quite a few new widgets such as a Twitter feed and an RSS reader. I’m trying to use these new tools to give the site a fresher look and to integrate it with social media. I’m also using HTML 5 video tags on the opening page, which means that you’ll need Firefox, Chrome, or Explorer 9 (now in beta only, full release March 14) to view the videos.

This brings me to the point of this post: if you are currently an English major/minor at GVSU, what would you like to see on the department site? How do you use the existing site? Is there anything you have frequently wanted the site to offer?
I’d like to add current course descriptions (so you would know, for example, if your 330 professor planned to teach his Studies in Fiction course using all vampire fiction) and online submission of contests and scholarships.

Update–I added an online submission form for the Oldenburg Writing Contest, using a free form builder called Jotform. It’s an easy-to-use service that lets you design unlimited forms for free. It has some pretty spiffy advanced featues, too, including support for CSS (so you can match the form to your page) and file upload.

For the faculty, I’d like automatic updates on profile pages, so new articles/books/other would be included, well, automatically.

Let me know with your comments–and do check out the new-look site. It’s not complete yet, but I’m getting there.