Engineering a better website for the Faculty of Engineering

Usability testing booth Faculty of Engineering

What do coffee, the Schulich Library and McGill’s Web Management System (WMS) have in common? If you stopped by the Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering during the December exam period, you might say plenty!

We spent the morning of December 8 with the Faculty of Engineering’s site manager in the building lobby outside the Schulich Library conducting usability testing on Engineering’s website. Student participants were coaxed to take part in the short test with complimentary coffee from the popular Dispatch Café. Volunteers were asked to perform a variety of tasks on the site.

This is one of a number of initiatives currently being undertaken to assess the site in preparation for revisions planned for 2017. Stay tuned to the Beta Blog for updates as the project unfolds!

Usability testing in progress

Related links:

Drag-and-drop for QuickForm

Just a small addition to the QuickForm block — you can now drag-and-drop items in the block configuration screen in addition to using the “↑” and “↓” buttons. This should make it easier for you to rearrange the form elements.

Thanks to David for his excellent work on this feature.

New upcoming feature: restricting pages by AD groups

We’re back after a bit of a summer hiatus. To start things off, we’re introducing a new feature that gives site administrators an option to restrict a page to be only accessible by members of a specific Active Directory group.

While similar functionality existed for a long time, it was always limited to WPS-specific groups, maintained by designated administrators within the Web Publishing System. This often resulted in duplicated effort, as other systems on campus rely on the Active Directory for group information, thus requiring that the groups are maintained both on the Active Directory side, and in the WPS.

Now WPS pages can use the Active Directory for group information, so no duplication of effort is required. Additionally, the option to restrict pages is now available to all site administrators — previously it was only available to superusers. Look for it in your page preferences popup in site management.

Note, that currently you can only restrict pages to an Active Directory group of which you yourself are a member.

EDITED: This feature is awaiting final documentation before being introduced sitewide. Once the ICS has recorded the changes, they will announce the availability of this feature to all site editors.

Linkchecker bugfixes

There was a number of bugfixes applied to linkchecker since its initial release:

  • Since a lot of servers do not correctly process “HEAD” requests, the linkchecker switched to doing full “GET” requests for higher accuracy in results.
  • The linkchecker now supports HTTPS URLs.
  • Support for redirects has been greatly enhanced — this was causing most false-positives when reporting broken links.

The second report sent on Monday is with the latest version of the Linkchecker, and should be more accurate than the previous Full report sent earlier that morning.

Please continue to report the bugs when you find them. We’re squashing them as quickly as possible.

Link checking is available for beta-testing

We are finally implementing a long-requested feature: link-checking the pages to report when good links go bad. This feature is not yet available to everyone — you have to be part of the special “beta-tester” group in order to be able to turn it on for your site. Moreover, this feature will only be available to site managers, who can then designate who receives the reports using the site-management tool:

Turning on the linkchecker

The reports run on weekdays and come in two varieties — “Full” reports and “Brief” reports. “Brief” reports run Tuesday through Friday and only check links within our site, for example a link from “/collaboration/” to “/hr/broken/”. “Full” reports are prepared for you on Monday morning and include links to external hosts, not just internal links.

The reports look like this:

Linkchecker sample report

The reports show the page with the broken link, then the status of the check (e.g. “Not Found”), then the link location (the “href” part of the <a> element), and then the text of the link to help you locate it on the page.

Participating in the beta program

If you are a site manager and would like to test-drive this feature, please fill out a feedback report requesting access to the beta-tester program: feedback form.

Item permissions and remembering your defaults

We’ve listened to your feedback and we’re pleased to announce that we have two new features for Channels editors.


Want to allow a certain group of people, or selected individuals to collaborate with you on your News, Events, and Announcement items? Now you can select them on all News, Events, and Announcements posting/editing forms. Just go to the last tab, labelled “Permissions”, and select the individuals or groups to whom you wish to give editing rights, using a tool similar to the channel selector. Note, that the people who appear in the list are only those who have News, Events, or Announcements posting rights themselves. You will also see a list of Active Directory groups to which you belong — you can assign item permissions to an AD group, not just individual people. Once the item is saved, it should show up in the “My Items” page for those who have access to it.

Saved Preferences

If you find that you are always choosing the same channels over and over, this feature is for you. It’s simple — just click the box beside “Make this my default selection” underneath the channel selector, and these channels will be selected by default on every new item you post. In addition, this feature is available for Permissions as well, so if you are collaborating on a regular basis with the same individuals or groups, you may want to save your preferences on the Permissions tab in the same way.

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