Vendor questions and Middlebury answers: 02/21/09

CATEGORIZED QUESTIONS FROM POTENTIAL PARTNERS;

ANSWERS IN ORANGE BOLD.

PROCESS

Will there be one main contact for managing the chosen vendor? What role does the contact (or contacts) have within the redesign effort?

What kind of access will the vendor have to other stakeholders at Middlebury? For example, how will students be involved in the redesign process?

How will you measure success?

With such a large group of stakeholders as well as Middlebury web re-design project committees – what is the expected engagement process with your selected vendor? Will there be a single project lead from LIS, or review by committee? Would you prefer some degree of on-site participation?

What scope of documentation on the requirements research work that you’ve done would we have access to?

Is project going to be awarded to the lowest bidder?

Is design quality and demonstrated past design strength a strong consideration for selection?

What is the criteria for final selection?

Are local firms to Vermont preferred for the project? Will you consider a New York city based firm that would plan a significant in-person presence at Middlebury?

We have worked in this particular format where we have handed off designs to another development team. Sometimes, the overall design direction can get lost in the transition between design and development and over time, the project can stray from the intended design direction. Is there a budget or resources for the designer/strategist to be continually involved so the overall vision stays intact throughout the development phase?

Is a company allowed to submit multiple proposals?

Are you open to working with a company outside of your geographical area?

If a company is from out of town and selected as a finalist are they able to present via WebEx/video conferencing?

We are requesting a single proposal from each vendor, although each proposal may include different approaches, several design themes.

Contract will be awarded based on a number of factors, including demonstrated competence, quality of the proposal, chemistry with Middlebury’s team; price is only one of them. We are open to working with companies from outside the Northeast. We may be open to having a finalist present via WebEx/video conferencing.

We have a large number of stakeholders, but we have a small project management team that will be able to make decisions and offer feedback in a timely manner. We expect the partner we select will meet with various stakeholder groups, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, etc.

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

The RFP suggests two constructs to navigate/organize the website: by subject matter (information hierarchy), or by role – which we expect will play a greater influence on web 2.0 interactivity tools. Which view of the information do you expect will be the predominant approach for ongoing user experience?

Our general audience is sufficiently diverse that we expect both hierarchical and role based navigation, as well as search, to be used by significant portions of our users. Our current hierarchical navigation model is strong and we’ll be looking to work with you in improving our IA to improve this navigation. Our role-based navigation is currently weak and should be a major focus of the redesign, including integration with interactive tools as your question discusses. We’ll be working internally to improve our search results by tweaking our tool and improve content.

With the desire to integrate web 2.0 technologies such as facebook, youtube, flickr, and RSS – can you provide some specific examples of how you see this interaction being integrated throughout the site? Would these only be in the instances of the “interact” scenarios spelled out in the RFP, or do you expect more robust integration – for example by role (student, faculty, etc.)

Integration with “web 2.0” technologies will be heaviest in those “interact” sub-sites, which we want to use to give departments an opportunity to tell their own story by aggregating different content sources they manage. However, other areas of our site will display this content as well: we expect News stories to have video and audio from our streaming media server and/or YouTube, the events list on the home page to be an RSS feed of events from our calendar database, etc. User-specific integration with tools like FaceBook will happen chiefly in the personal home pages.

I don’t see the proposed IA for MIIS. Have I missed it? If not, what is the status and scope of that work?

http://sites.middlebury.edu/webredo/2009/02/20/link-to-proposed-monterey-ia/

What is the scope of IA work for the other Middlebury entities’ websites? For example, will you want the selected vendor to review and potentially restructure Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference IA or any of the schools as well?

Certain portions of the draft IA, particularly the Resources, Programs, and Affiliates sections are less complete than others, such as Admissions or Academics. We’ll work with you in identifying the areas of our IA proposal which need the most attention.

INSTITUTIONAL INFO/PRIORITIES

Who is Middlebury’s main competition, in terms of the primary audiences? (Identified in the RFP as prospective students and their families)

Top national liberal arts colleges; Ivy League schools.

What’s the order of importance (e.g., priority order as opposed to alphabetical order) of the audiences listed on p. 3-4 of RFP?

Importance of audiences varies for different sections of the site. Prospective students and their families No. 1 in public facing site; daily users most important in other parts.

In light of Middlebury’s “global” reality and aspirations, how has branding & positioning been addressed within this effort? The magnitude of this project’s effort has some significant implications for this consideration and we’re wondering what efforts will be exerted by the College at this time (or in the future).

Capital campaign: Middlebury Initiative: Liberal Arts, Global Action. Middlebury tag line: Middlebury seeks to be the global liberal arts college for the 21st century. Summer Language Schools in 10 languages. Schools Abroad in 30-plus cities in a dozen countries. Affiliation with Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Are there any websites your team has found to be good precedents for what you would like to do?

We have sites we like, mostly for how they do one thing well, but we haven’t found any sites that doing everything that we want Middlebury’s site to do.

Is there a general goal for the number of pages Middlebury wants on the final web site?

Under 1,000 pages in highly branded public facing site.

SCOPE

There seems to be a bit of a mismatch between the requirements and number of entities and elements involved in the project (e.g., mobile access, Web 2.0 elements, accessibility and localization, customization, etc.) and the list of deliverables in section 6 of the RFP (p. 6). Could you comment more on Middlebury’s role vs. the vendor’s role?

The page list is fairly short, but a large number of features are listed in section 10.2 that are not part of the page list. Items include a personalized home page with customizable widgets, master calendar with rich functionality (is this the “Events listing” page template?), faculty/student directory, maps/tours, forms, media galleries and more. Is section 10.2 provided only for reference or should all these features be assumed to be part of the core page designs that are required?

Middlebury has a core group of developers who will be building and implementing the technical architecture for the web presence. We would like the vendor to contribute the user experience and visual deployment.

Although there is a list of potential design templates on p. 6, it is not clear if the 11 unique pages is the full page count or is this is just a partial list that could grow substantially as the project progresses. The last bullet point states that variations on look and feel for the unique templates may be needed per department which could change the design and coding time significantly. We’ll need a more specific total template count in order to provide an estimate of effort.

Our current IA document is not complete; review and finalization is listed in the deliverables. We anticipate that the IA development process will inform the number of unique designs necessary.

In some of the documents related to the redesign, there is a big emphasis on usability and making sure that things are pleasant to use. Can changes be made to enhance the usability of some of the existing models, such as the News Portal (http://go.middlebury.edu/news)? What is the division of responsibility between Middlebury and the vendor on interaction design / experience design? Often it’s the details that make the difference here and it does not seem with such a large scope that the vendor can be intimately involved in user experience design, although the success of incorporating all the desired elements will hinge on this.

The Web Makeover committee has experience with leading focus groups, but we do not have extensive experience with usability testing. The vendor should present a plan for usability that they are comfortable with.

Is there an intention with this release to build in person-to-person or person-to-group messaging within the Middlebury site? (Examples: the ability of faculty to interact with their classes, or students to interact with each other, etc.)

Middlebury would like to use appropriate Web 2.0 technologies to represent and build our online community; some of these technologies are mentioned in the Appendix. Recommendations and additions from the vendor should be mentioned in the proposal.

In further detail, what is the scope of the site redesign/re-architecture as it extends to external sites such as MIIS, Liberal Arts Global Action, etc.? Do you anticipate applying a new look and feel to these satellite sites to promote a more seamless user experience?

The goal is to create a series of templates and themes with similar elements. Each site will have it’s own identity, yet still belong to Middlebury

Are there any known content gaps that may need to be filled, based upon conversion planning? Will there be a need to produce strategic multimedia/flash, narrative, etc..concurrently with this project? Would this constitute a separate project?

Middlebury has collection of images and media that can be used for the design.

TECH

Regarding the following deliverable: “Process flows for all transactional components, including end-users’ and content managers’ uses of the Web presence.” Can you provide a list of the end user transactional components for which you would like process flows proposed?

What types, how complex and how many transactional components will there be?

Every interaction between a user and the Web site should be presented in a process flow. The process flow will represent an intuitive delivery of information for the end-user. Editing interfaces should be intuitive for content managers, while providing the flexibility to deliver complex content. We understand that this is a challenge, and we are looking for the vendor to help us achieve a balance.

PRICE/BUDGET

What is the budget or range for this project (time and expenses)?

Are you able to share the proposed budget for this RFP? (Always worth asking for expectation and scope purposes)

What is the approximate budget for the project?

What is the budget for this project? Has it been funded?

We don’t have a specific budget but expect that the proposals will be more than $100,000 and less than $250,000.

TIMING

Please clarify the extent of scheduling you expect from the vendor. As you know, the RFP says, “Tentative schedule and plan of work to complete Monterey’s site for public launch in August 2009…” Do you want a schedule for what would be our work, which you would integrate with your internal build-out schedule? Or, do you want the vendor to lay out the timetables for LIS and Communications work?

Please describe how wedded you are to the proposed schedule, which strikes us as ambitious.

We know the schedule we’ve described is ambitious. Monterey definitely needs to launch its new design in August, and we want to push as hard as we can to get the Middlebury site wrapped up by the end of the year. We recognize that we may need to do this project in phases, so that not all the functionality we envision adding to the site is available right away.

DELIVERABLES

The affiliate schools (outside of MIIS) are going to be part of the middlebury.edu domain. Will they require differentiating design characteristics? Or will they live under the same design specs that are established for Middlebury?

Would it be safe to assume that the MIIS site will have a unique, yet cohesive branded site to that of Middlebury?

One overall design (to be chosen from three or more potential treatments) but several versions for Middlebury (undergraduate, Language School, Bread Loaf programs, Schools Abroad) and Monterey

Fresh designs for CMS + Wiki + Blog templates

Who is responsible for content analysis and deciding what content needs to be:

Available to which audiences? Eliminated? Changed? Added? Where does this process fit in the project timeline?

We expect to make most of these decisions internally, and the process is ongoing. We do want to have our partner help us test our decisions on content availability/IA.

For design deliverables, do you want a set of the design templates for the College, MIIS and for each of the schools?

Can the design deliverables be quantified (for purposes of accurate cost estimation)? While there are a number of web properties included in the scope of this work, can a number be put to the number of “home” page, landing page, detail page, (or families of such)? Are you seeking a fully finished top-level site or a finished template library to deploy as necessary? A combination of both is our interpretation, but we’d like to estimate the volume of work to meet your expectations.

Please confirm that your partner would be responsible for delivering XHTML/CSS

Does Middlebury have a preferred format that you would like to receive the designs?

Are photoshop (psd) files sufficient for handoff or do you require html/css templates made from the approved design?

Original design/image files (no required format); html/css not required.

Does Middlebury have a collection on photo assets or would you like the partner to include an optional line item for an on-campus photo shoot?

We have lots of great photography and an online digital photography archive. We have photographers on campus for major shoots every couple of months.

Are there existing “look and feel” preferences or a style guide that Middlebury would like the partner to follow or are you looking for a new design recommended by the partner?

Looking for a fresh, groundbreaking design, but one that reflects Middlebury’s 209-year history. See our graphic identity guidelines at our communication office Web site.

USABILITY TESTING

Are they seeking the vendor to test the IA after it has been expanded upon? Or will they be using their internal resources? Same with Usability testing and site flow review.

There is a usability testing plan listed (p. 7) – What is the scope? Usually it is best to incorporate usability testing throughout a design and development process. This requires, at minimum, deciding what aspects to test, devising test tasks, recruiting, facilitating the tests, and analyzing the results. How much of this would be the vendor’s responsibility?

In the Deliverables section, it is noted that “a tested IA” should be completed before wireframes (p. 6). If this means usability testing, it suggests that at least some wireframes would have to be done to conduct the tests. Or is this more of a “usability review of site flow and structure” as mentioned on p. 7?

The RFP states that usability testing should take place before design work. Usability testing can occur at different places of the design process: before design, after design, during development, and after development. We have found that people respond better to functioning websites rather than wireframes or flat designs. Can the usability schedule be changed or amended as needed?

Would you like the partner to generate the usability test plan and conduct the usability testing, or only develop the plan with the intention of the Middlebury team conducting the testing?

Regarding the following deliverable: “Usability testing plan: from both visual branding and user experience points of view; note that usability review of site flow and structure should take place before design work.” The requirement to conduct usability testing from a “visual branding and user experience” point of view indicates that Middlebury would like usability testing on the design comps and functional web site. However, a “usability review” is desired for the site flow and structure. Does that mean that Middlebury would like an expert review and analysis on the site flow and structure, but not usability testing?

See deliverables section of RFP, but generally we are hopeful that our partner will help us test the IAs we’ve worked up (Middlebury and Monterey), and that they will be able to do extensive usability testing, which will take place at various points throughout the design and build process. Reviews should involve both process flow and usability.

TECH

Will sIFR be allowed for unique fonts?

We have no objection to this.

Are there any limitations within the Drupal framework that they would want us to be aware of?

We have not identified any limitations that would be “showstoppers” for our proposed work.

What types, how complex and how many transactional components will there be?

Will the vendor have access to search logs, web analytics, etc.? How much has Middlebury’s analysis of these sources contributed to ideas about the redesign?

Yes, we will make this information available. We have done surface analysis to determine the areas of our site that are most visited, but much of our thinking in terms of redesign has come from our surveys, focus groups and internal meetings.

What moderating is required on user-supplied content? E.g., on users uploading photos for events, user comments, etc.

The level of content moderation will vary with the area of the site. Our top level pages will be highly moderated while the personal home pages will be (mostly) un-moderated. We will look to you to provide process flows for these transactional components that can be flexible depending on the level of moderation required.

What security is required different kinds of information? E.g., can any user access portfolios of student research, work, etc.?

The level of content security will vary with the area of the site. Our top level pages will be publicly available while the personal home pages will be (mostly) private. We will look to you to provide process flows for these transactional components that can be flexible depending on the level of security required.

How is Middlebury handling security in general? E.g., remote-access (off-campus) editing of content? (p. 13)

We are developing a single-sign-on service based on our current authentication system. Integration of this system with our various platforms is not in the scope of the proposal for the site redesign.

What is the complete list of all browser/OS combinations, including any mobile devices, that need to be fully tested and supported? For browsers not fully supported, do we need to provide a version of the site that provides basic functionality to ensure universal access?

A list of supported browsers is available at http://go.middlebury.edu/webhelp?browsing. Our policy is to support all browsers released by major vendors until the vendor discontinues support.

What does “Improved Search functionality” mean? (p. 13) Is this the responsibility of the vendor, or Middlebury?

This is the responsibility of Middlebury.

Section 508 compliance is listed as a requirement but the level of effort could range from basic accessibility features (alt tags, semantic markup, tabular data scopes and summaries) to a very robust progressive enhancement strategy and full testing on a range of screen readers and specific testing criteria. More detail is needed for the testing and acceptance criteria for Section 508 compliance.

As the XHTML/CSS will be developed by Middlebury, this item means that the delivered design should be one that could be implemented to support those standards. This item is meant to inform the design team of a desired goal.

How did you arrive at the decision to use Drupal as your CMS, and what is the intent for data migration as it extends to a fairly large content trove (some of which may be old/dated, or otherwise irrelevant)?

A number of factors including extensibility, support, developer knowledge, experience, community, and cost informed our decision to use Drupal for this project. Our intent is to migrate our content from our current site to the new IA you propose either manually or using scripts we develop.

Does the College desire the entire architecture to be platformed in Drupal?

Our public-targeted highly-branded site will live in Drupal, though content for some areas (such as the Events Calendar) will come from external data sources. Other areas of the site may be part of other instances of Drupal, or other platforms depending on need.

Does the College desire a mySql or Oracle database?

We will be using a MySQL database as the backend for whatever sites are set up in Drupal. Middlebury will set up, configure and maintain this database.

How much data needs to be migrated?

This will depend on delivered IA.

In listed the project deliverables and the following interface:

A database of contact information run on Microsoft Active Directory

Is this desired for only authentication or does the College desire more detailed messaging integration?

For the purposes of this project we will be using Active Directory for authentication.

Will the website definitely be developed with Drupal?

Yes.

Will you consider alternative Content Management Systems?

No.

What level of 508 compliance is Middlebury seeking? Or are you seeking a recommendation from the partner?

As the XHTML/CSS will be developed by Middlebury, this item means that the delivered design should be one that could be implemented to support those standards. This item is meant to inform the design team of a desired goal.

Are you open to looking at any other best practice CMS’s for your website? Our CMS includes many of the features that you specify adding to your CMS in the future.

No.

Regarding the following deliverable: “Process flows for all transactional components, including end-users’ and content managers’ uses of the Web presence.” Can you provide a list of the end user transactional components for which you would like process flows proposed?

What types, how complex and how many transactional components will there be?

Every interaction between a user and the website should be presented in a process flow. The process flow will represent an intuitive delivery of information for the end-user. Editing interfaces should be intuitive for content managers, while providing the flexibility to deliver complex content. We understand that this is a challenge, and we are looking for the vendor to help us achieve a balance.



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