Say Hello to GalleryEDU

Over the last few weekends, when I’ve had a bit of downtime, I’ve built a new website. That’s nothing new, I’ve got bits of sites and code that I like to tinker with here and there, but this site was different.

This new site was born out of frustration. Let me explain.

There’s already a design gallery site for higher ed websites out there. I’ve submitted sites to it a few times, even had this blog and a few sites I’d built included in their awards a few times. I submitted a few sites to their collection, in the hope of sharing the work we’d been up to at my institution.

And the submissions sat and sat. They were never approved. In fact, there are many tweets and Facebook messages I’ve seen lately that the site has just stopped working – people can’t create new accounts, and I even asked for a password reset and the email never arrived.

It’s time to change that. I feel it’s time for a design resource that we as professional web people in higher education can use to see what other institutions are doing well, but with some important additions, and some important omissions.

GallerEDU logoSo, I built GalleryEDU.

What is GalleryEDU?

Simple. It’s a site where you can submit your site, some accompanying information, and I’ll add it to the gallery. Pretty straight-forward. Here’s where I think GalleryEDU becomes an important resource: the data.

What’s included?

The information for each site’s listing comes from you, including a description and rationale behind the site. Take this great example from the entry for the very first site submitted, the University of Portsmouth in the UK. They write:

University of Portsmouth course pages are now easier to find by navigating through a smaller selection of subject areas and they are now more engaging through accurate and concise copy and more visually appealing with large responsive images and student and tutor quotes throughout the pages.

That’s great information. To see a little about the process and the successes and challenges of any site is helpful.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-16-at-7.10.03-PM.pngI don’t know and can’t tell by looking at any site who designed it, who built it, and what kind of platform it’s built on. So, when you submit a site, I ask for that kind of information. That’s the kind of information that I as a web person and developer care about.

And here’s where all that data gets pretty interesting. It’s now easy to see at a glance all the sites built with TerminalFour, for example, or all the entries that are for school home pages.

Each site submitted gets an image gallery consisting of screenshots that I take of the site. Take this site submitted by the University of Nevada, Reno. The screenshots that go with this entry feature their homepage, but also areas of the homepage I thought were interesting.

In the case of Reno’s page, I really liked how they presented some data on their page and wanted to pull that out and feature it.

If a site is responsive, I will take the screenshot on my phone and include it as one of the images in the gallery. Sure, you could drag your window smaller and grab a screenshot, but it’s worth seeing how the site looks in a real mobile browser. Since I have an iPhone, you get Safari screenshots.

I envision a day when this site has many entries that having the ability to sort by country, or platform, would be very helpful for us.

One thing that will be included? Ads. Why? To pay for the site hosting (which isn’t much) and for my time. See, every site that gets submitted is proofread, and I take every screenshot myself. I’m not going to get rich from this site, and that’s not the goal at all. Ads will be for services or tools of interest to higher education marketers and web developers. No spam or flash/annoying ads.

Right now there is a single Google AdSense ad on each page, but they’re not terribly targeted. We’ll be reaching out to higher ed vendors and companies over the next few weeks, but if you want to get in early, please contact Mike.

What’s not included?

For as much as I’ve put into the site, there are things I’ve left out, including things that I don’t think really benefit a site like this.

The first: user comments. I’m all for open discussion, but I don’t see the value of nitpicking or downright slamming a site’s design or functionality. Since I don’t have time to moderate all the site’s comments, it’s easier to just leave them off. If you like a site, use the sharing tools and let people know. The same goes, I guess, if you dislike it.

Second, ratings. I don’t see what they add either. This isn’t Netflix and the site doesn’t recommend other sites based on what you’ve rated in the past, so I’m leaving them out.

Finally, awards. There are enough other awards out there.

Site Goals

My goals for the first few months are modest.

  1. My goal is to get sites listed two business days after they are submitted.
  2. In the next three months, I’d like to have 1,000 unique site visits.
  3. In the next three months, I’d like to have 25 sites in the gallery.
  4. I’d like to book $100 of ads a month to cover expenses and hosting costs. Currently, the site lives on shared hosting but if it grows in popularity, I may have to move it to its own VPS. We’ll see.

I promise transparency on stats and will post Google Analytics data here.

Follow GalleryEDU

Of course, you can follow us on Twitter. We’re at @GalleryEDU and here’s a button:

It’s set up to tweet out each time a new site is published. I hate the noise as much as you do, so I’m trying to only tweet when needed.

If you’d rather get a weekly email, I’ve set up a MailChimp list where you can get a weekly listing of sites added. That way, you can get to it when you have a few minutes. You can sign up for that right here.

Help Me Help Us!

I need your help. Please submit your sites. They don’t have to be launched in the last week. In fact, many of the sites in the gallery currently launched in 2013. In order for this to be a success, I’m asking for you to submit your sites, please.

Thank you so much in advance!

About GalleryEDU

GalleryEDU is built with WordPress, and the theme is one I built from scratch using Zurb’s amazing Foundation framework. That means the site is nice and responsive, and will work and look great on any mobile device. It’s now hosted at HostGator.

I’m using Amazon CloudFront as a CDN, Mandrill for transactional emails, and the WP-Types plugin to easily create the custom post type in WordPress for submitted sites.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope you’ll submit your sites.

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