UC Berkeley French Department

My friend and colleague Stefan Gutermuth and I rebuilt the French Department’s website this summer, making some substantial changes top to bottom. You can view it here.

We’ve done work together before, and most of it has been for UCB sites. This one is a step up on several fronts.First and foremost, I think Stefan did a very solid job with the visual design. Perhaps because most of the visual ideas started with the newsletter, this site looks the most like his careful design in it’s final execution. Some of his other sites have had the marks of a print designer trying to adapt to the web (a phase every designer goes through when changing platforms), but this one works very naturally as a web page. I expect we’ll see more and even better from him.

Technically, the site makes extensive use of custom post types, custom taxonomies, extensive custom fields, and some sophisticated sorting logic. The logic used in their course numbering conventions is not the sort that computers like (R1B comes before 2?), so I had to build a system for getting all of that to work. I’ve learned a lot in the past year or two, and WordPress has evolved significantly: because of that, the flexibility on the back end is significantly more useful and tailored to the client. One of the things I had liked about using Expression Engine was the flexibility with page formatting for whomever it is who ends up entering the copy – this has been a huge issue with CMS functionality, and EE had done a good job solving it. Much of the rest of their back end wasn’t user friendly, but this one element they excelled with. I now feel that between what I’ve learned and what WordPress has added, I can offer or exceed that level of customization.

This site is one small example of that. I’ve done more complex CMS customization on other sites lately, but nothing I can sign my name to. I expect to have more sites that are solely my engineering and exercises in this kind of customization in the coming year. And I’m in a geeky froth over it!


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