Improvements to UUA.org
Usability studies, accessibility reviews, survey responses, website analytics, and the feedback we get from Unitarian Universalists (UUs) every day keep the updates we make to our website engaging and relevant. We're very excited to share these new features with you, and we're looking forward to bringing you the next round of improvements to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) website: UUA.org.
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- Feedback Form on 404 Page (February 2014): We added a form to our 404 (file not found) page to better allow us to address errors.
- Bootstrap/LESS (November 2013): We've moved our styles and structure to a Bootstrap/LESS platform, which means that we look and work better than ever on all devices (our site works on touchscreens now, and our responsive sizing is more fluid, and has a larger “largest” size); the way things like the main navigation or the home page carousel work are more standardized, using a system that will already be familiar to people after having visited some of the millions of sites using the same; and on the back end, we’re in a better, more flexible position to try out new design ideas.
- Simplified "Share" Icons (April 2013): We've swapped from a third-party "catchall" service for social media sharing to a faster-loading, locally-hosted system which highlights only UUA.org's most popular sharing services. In addition to faster page loads, using the more ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter, and Email icons will help make this feature more obvious.
- Google Presentations (March 2013): Our pages can now include embedded Google Presentations in the page body area or sidebar.
- Microdata tagging (February 2013): Microdata allows search engines to better understand the information on web pages, which can mean more attractive and relevant search results. Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all support the Schema.org vocabulary, which has now been applied to the UUA and UUA Bookstore sites.
- Site search (January 2013): Our site search now includes all public UUA sites (including district and regional sites), all Related Organization sites, and the Church of the Larger Fellowship's seeker site, Quest for Meaning. Results can be sorted by relevance or date. Auto-completion offers common words or phrases, and in some cases suggests likely pages. Searches can be performed for images as well as web pages.
- Google Calendars (November 2012): We moved from a series of clunky text-only lists of events to embedded Google Calendars. This allows all our calendars (social justice, holidays, etc.) to be displayed in one place (as well as in their topic areas) in their traditional grid format (as well as in plain text feeds). People can add an event to their own calendars with a single click, and can also choose to subscribe to any of our calendars.
- Google Maps (November 2012): Our pages can now include embedded Google Maps in the page body area or sidebar. Find Young Adult Groups, or find your way around the GA site.
- Sharing via social media (September 2012): We added some Open Graph code to help social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest understand our pages and find image thumbnails.
- General Assembly (GA) callout on home page (April 2012): Our home page now features a GA/Justice program box to help UUs prepare for GA, and then take it home with them.
- Facebook feeds (March 2012): Our pages can now include Facebook feeds from public pages. Find Campus UUs on Facebook on our Campus Ministry site.
- Handheld styles (March 2012): A new set of styles makes UUA.org much easier to read on mobile devices—only a single column of text, and a much larger default text size. No information is lost! This isn't a "mobile site" or a "mobile app" with a limited set of features. The approach we used is called "responsive design," which means the same website is available to both desktop and handheld devices—just better-designed when viewed on smaller screens.
- Image link improvement (February 2012): Our sidebar images used to link to a larger version of the image. Now a magnifying glass icon serves that purpose, and the image itself links to any associated content (for example, an image of a book cover will link to a page where that book can be purchased, instead of to a larger version of the book cover).
- Twitter feeds (January 2012): Our pages can now include Twitter feeds from users or lists. Read Tweets from uuaGA in the sidebar of the General Assembly home page.
- Blog feeds (November 2011): We added the ability to include automatically-generated lists of recent articles from UU blogs on relevant pages, like posts from the Learn Out Loud Blog in the sidebar of the Congregational Management home page.
- Awards & Scholarships moved to topic areas (November 2011): While we still have a home for all Awards & Scholarships administered by the UUA, we've moved their information & recipient pages into the topical area most relevant to them so they're easier to find (see, for example, Scholarships for UU Ministerial Students).
- New menus on all pages (August 2011): After extensive testing, we moved to topic-based menus instead of the "Visitors/Members/Leaders" audience-based approach. No more choosing what audience you’re in or selecting the format of your resources before getting to the information you need!
We created the new organization of UUA.org based on results from some card-sorting exercises, which help establish how people group topics, and what they call the groups. We then tested the groups (which became top-level menu choices) by using a system called Treejack. With Treejack, we could display a proposed menu tree and then ask volunteers to try to find topics using the menus. We saw where they looked first, where they backtracked, and where they ended up deciding that a topic should live in the menu tree.
In many cases, people looked in places that we didn't expect, or didn't understand labels that we thought were clear. We ran dozens of tests with hundreds of volunteers (UU and non), renaming and moving topics based on where people looked for things.
Read more about our process, the resources we used, and the lessons we learned.
- Accessibility for multimedia (April 2011): We've solidified processes for acquiring and displaying captions and/or transcripts for our multimedia files, and implemented a UUA.org Policy on Transcripts and Captions for Video.
- Menu added to home page, moved up on other pages (April 2011): When we launch our topic-based menu later this year, we'll need room for more buttons. In preparation, we've moved our site menu buttons to sit just below our logo, where we'll have room to stretch the bar all the way across the page. We've also added the menu bar back in to our home page at the same location.
- Home page banner controls more intuitive (April 2011): Usability tests (watching people use our site) revealed that the controls on our home page slideshow banner were confusing. We reprogrammed them to work more intuitively—now, clicking on the label at the bottom of the slideshow (or anywhere on the slide that's displayed) will take you to more information about that topic. Our old controls required a click on the text link within the banner area in order to learn more.
- Left-hand links show more context (March 2011): We updated the way that links are displayed in the left-hand column, so that pages near the page you’re looking at always appear. In our sidebar navigation, the page’s "aunts and uncles" (pages in the next level up) no longer disappear when you go into a sub-section. Our navigation now shows the level you're on plus all of up to two levels above, and the page you're looking at is indicated with bold text. This change will make our site easier to browse, and related material will be more obvious.
- Congregational stories moved to topic areas (February 2011): The fantastic, inspiring stories from Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations that used to live in a section of the website we called "Congregational Life" have been moved to live with their topic areas, so they'll now share a neighborhood with relevant resources to help you act on that inspiration. UU Congregational Life Stories provides an introduction to these stories, and links to each collection in its topic area.
- Share icon moved (January 2011): The Share icon on each UUA.org allows you to share the current page via Facebook, Twitter, email, or a dozen other systems. If you never noticed it, that's because it was way up in the upper right corner of each page. We moved it between the page title and the Print icon, where it's more obvious.
- Drop-down menus added to navigation buttons (January 2011): We anticipate that the overhaul of our website into a topic-based organization will result in more useful navigation options with drop-down access to all our resource topics. In the meantime, we realized that offering quicker access to the topics already available in our "Leaders" section would be an immediate improvement.
The “Visitors,” “Members,” and “Leaders” buttons on our menu now display drop-down menus of subtopics as soon as you mouse over them. This gives you one-click access to those subtopics.
- Embedded video (June 2010): We now feature embedded video and audio in our page body and sidebar areas. This makes our multimedia resources more accessible—with room for transcripts and no more pop-up windows—and provides each with improved search engine optimization.
- Improved “Find a Congregation” feature (June 2010): You can now search for congregations by typing in the name of your city and state—no more having to know the zip code for the location you want! When your search results come up, you'll see a Google map highlighting the location of every UU congregation within the radius you specified.
- Better connections with UUs everywhere (June 2010): Many of you have wished to know more about what other congregations are doing, so we're happy to announce that news, events, and blog entries are featured on more pages. Our staff can customize the news and events listings to each section of UUA.org, so you can enjoy select articles about UUs working in the areas that interest you, or find out about relevant conferences or trainings.
- Enhanced site search (June 2010): We asked questions about our site search, analyzed our statistics, listened to feedback, and even added a “live chat” feature on our search page so we could make searching UUA.org easier than ever. “Tabs” on our search results let you refine your search to particular subsections of our site: search specifically for UU World articles, WorshipWeb resources, congregational stories, and more.
- More accessible content (June 2010): We asked for a professional review of our site's accessibility and are proud to announce that with very few exceptions (most of which we're fixing with this launch, and the rest of which we're actively working on), we comply with Section 508 and Web Accessibility Initiative(WAI) guidelines.
- Stronger contrast: our color schemes have been adjusted to meet the highest level of contrast ratio, making all our text easier to read.
- Larger fonts: our site navigation, image captions, and related content fonts are all larger, and un-bolded for improved readability.
- Consistent headers: screen readers can navigate our site more easily than ever, thanks to the changes we've made to the structure of our pages.
- Redesign (January 2010): In January 2010, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) debuted a new, wider home page with new features like videos and links to recently-updated pages and Unitarian Universalist (UU) blog entries. We also added a few new features to all UUA.org pages, including a “Find a Congregation” form and the ability to share material on Facebook and other social networking sites.
You Can Help
We hope you'll find these improvements helpful and interesting. We welcome your feedback so we can continue to make UUA.org the best it can be: web [at] uua [dot] org.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.