Edupack is a WordPress plugin. Our plugin simplifies Higher Ed website management.

Edupack users manage complex website systems. Some of these users maintain self-service, “Domain of One’s Own,” systems. Others maintain a single website for lots of stakeholders. Whatever the complexity, our goal is to streamline the Higher Ed website publishing workflow, from content inception to its sunsetting.

Edupack is also a community.

All core Edupack code is Open Source, published under the GNU General Public License. That means anyone can use Edupack’s core tech for free. We’ve done this so that Higher Ed pros feel free to exchange ideas and code with us (we never want to lock users into proprietary systems!)

We hold monthly meetings with our users to discuss new features and we maintain a Slack channel to discuss anything on the mind of Higher Ed pros. We aim to be as transparent as possible to gain user trust as we develop our solutions (for more info, read our post on transparency).

If you aren’t part of Edupack already, we sincerely hope you’ll join.

Feel free to email me or message me in Slack.

We cannot build the future of Higher Ed without you!

#key-info

Full Site Editing or “FSE” is WordPress’s attempt to make an entire site editable via their block editor. I dove headfirst into FSE this week. After lots of head banging, my conclusion:

Don’t depend on FSE today, but FSE’s future is bright!!

Our main headache was the query block. We encountered lots of weird bugs, like crashing blocks and hidden images. Controlling typography, especially for headings, was also extremely limited and color settings took forever to set, as this ticket highlights.

Still, I have faith in FSE…

Imagine: No CSS coding. No mockups.

The Blocksy theme already saves coding time. Their GUI style controls cover 80% of what designers can imagine. FSE provides additional global style settings that could, theoretically, make custom themes useless. Designers could design their site within WordPress without needing mockups or coding expertise.

For Higher Ed pros, block-based style controls also provide better management over user capabilities. That means accessibility and branding policies can be policed at a code level instead of through visual, human tests.

For those reasons, the future is bright for FSE.

Unfortunately, FSE’s bright future is probably not coming soon.

#research

How open is too Open?

We trust you’ll ask questions. We don’t want to bombard you. We trust that you’ll ask for the info you want. We do have several public forums for brainstorming. General ideas fit nicely into Slack’s #general channel. Randomness fits into #random. We email key announcements, and I’m not so sure what P2 is for yet, but “2” rhymes with “true” so… Great Truths might go here?

We never share private information. Our commitment to privacy is built into our service. Edupack isn’t a hosting service. The Edupack plugin currently does not currently collect any of your data (this may change if we need to learn about usage). Data on third-party services (ie- Slack, GitHub, P2, Gmail, …) won’t be shared with any other third party.

We also protect experimentation. Spitball ideas with me, @bbertucc. If you say something is private, I won’t tell a soul. I also encourage folks to share ideas privately with each other before bringing them to the larger group. Hashed-out ideas usually get better traction.

Business decisions and Edupack finances are public (mostly). We sometimes sign NDAs, so we obviously can’t share data that can’t be disclosed. We do aim to share most Edupack financial data. Feedback on profits, losses, investments, and lessons helps us make better business decisions. That said, we maintain employee and partner rights to privacy and never share anything employees or partners do not want us to share.

Anytime we discuss anything privately, we do it to maintain your trust. Your trust is our most precious asset. Our privacy policies work to maintain your trust in Edupack.

Ask your questions!

#key-info

I’m in charge of Edupack’s outreach. I’m also trying to keep our Slack channels focused by publishing the goals behind our communication and work. This post establishes the motivation behind the #outreach group on Slack.

The Author

From user onboarding to content sunsetting, Edupack aims to simplify Higher Ed web publishing. To reach our bold vision, Edupack is launching an outreach initiative in three phases (enumerated with domain names 😉):

1. Find Good Ideas & Dream Big (joinedupack.com)

Our first phase of outreach needs to promote brainstorming. 

Imagine.. Higher Ed web publishing simplified into a single framework of standards and tech..

We’ll search HighEdWeb and WPCampus for good ideas to bring into Edupack.

We are at the start of a big project. The potential is endless, and we should promote big ideas while we can.

2. Deliver Features (edupack.dev)

Once we have all the ideas we can handle, we’ll focus on delivering features. Our features must live up to the dreams of Higher Ed Pros. @nathansmonk and his team are working hard to turn dreams into a reality.

Our aim is to have Higher Ed pros using our plugin as quickly as possible. We want our development to be guided by real user stories.

3. Sustain Openness (edupack.co)

We plan to sustain our open core through support services. We love the idea of support services because companies are literally paying us to ensure our code is great and our systems are functional.

I hope that the dreamers and early users who contribute to Edupack become our biggest cheerleaders. Our cheerleaders can push Higher Ed institutions to pay for our services.

This is my plan for Edupack outreach.

#plans

Edupack caters to every Higher Ed stakeholder. From I.T. admins to professors and students, approved campus users can publish content without design or coding expertise. At our February meeting, Matt presented the following onboarding design iterations.

How are we designing the easiest onboarding in Higher Ed? Answer: Iterate, iterate, iterate…

Our First Iteration

Our first iteration was built around a simple form collecting key pieces of information. The user entered their desired domain, keywords, and selected a “type” of site. Once complete, the user moved to add content from a library of pre-defined blocks.

This raised further questions, such as:

  1. How do we make the pattern library scalable? With space in the sidebar limited, a large number of patterns would be difficult to navigate.
  2. How would a user add functionality to the site?
  3. “Site Type” was confusing to a user. Users who had no knowledge of different site types needed to see what each site type meant.

Take Two

To clarify “site types,” we gave visual examples of different site types.

We added the ability for users to start with a blank canvas. This gives experienced users total control over what content they add.

More questions arose:

  1. Is there a better way to add new pages?
  2. How are relationships between pages created?
  3. How do we deal with endlessly expanding site types?

Take Three

Users often know what pages their sites have. Instead of asking users to fit their content into a page, we decided to offer different patterns of content on each page. A page-by-page setup motivated a sitemap step. The sitemap gives non-experienced users a visual understanding of how their website pages are connected:

The visual sitemap inspired us to visualize other aspects that are confusing in a WordPress site setup, namely the features that a user wants to activate.

Instead of asking users who may not have any WordPress experience to choose plugins, our onboarding form asks users what features they want to add:


Different plugins would be activated behind the scenes, depending on what features a user wanted. Thinking of a site’s features vs. plugins means that network admins should receive fewer requests for plugins that do the same thing as other plugins.

Next steps…

Our onboarding system is now being developed. We’ll soon have a working version installed with all our Braintrust users.

#plans

#design, #ideas

We launched a survey to help understand how universities create and manage websites. Universities in the US and UK responded to questions that inform the future of Edupack.

What did we find? In short, Universities are not happy with how they manage websites.

Almost 50% of respondents experienced issues with their current setup. That isn’t surprising when we consider that on average, each institute is juggling almost three CMSes.

To compound this, over 50% of those who responded own over 100 websites. And 30.4% are responsible for more than 500 sites.

Those figures do not include rogue websites. These rogue websites are created by university staff without going through any internal review processes.

Another interesting fact: WordPress is used by 100% of respondents in their institution.

Do you manage your institution’s website infrastructure? We’ll continue to update this survey with new responses.

#research

We want to support Automattic, so we’re trying out P2.

Is P2 useful?

Let us know!

Post updates, ask questions, brainstorm ideas, give feedback.

Your first post

Use the editor located at the top of the homepage to compose and publish your posts.

Each piece of content you add to a post or comment here is its own block, just like in the general WordPress editor. Paragraphs, quotes, images (or galleries!), snippets of code, embedded content from other sites and services… add and rearrange whatever blocks as you need to communicate exactly what you want.

Just start typing on the editor or click on the + icon to see a list of blocks. Give it a try!

More tips

  • Comments also use the advanced editor giving you endless possibilities to compose your messages. 💬
  • You can mention teammates using the @ character followed by their username. They’ll get a notification so they don’t miss out on the discussion.
  • Visit My profile to update your name or upload a new profile picture.
  • See the “Follow” button at the bottom of this post? You can click it on any post to receive an email every time a new comment is posted.

Links

Version 0.0.1 of the Edupack plugin is now available.

This version turns WordPress into a self-service, “domain of one’s own,” platform. We’ve developed a site builder for any user to launch a new site. We’ve also created a templating feature that turns any site into a template. These features are our first steps to empowering every aspect of Higher Ed website publishing. (See our complete feature roadmap.)

If you’re interested in using Edupack, feel free to email me.

You can also chat with us on Slack: http://joinedupack.slack.com.

We’re a small development team with a big goal. With your help, we can streamline the way Higher Ed pros publish and manage their websites.

Onwards and upwards!

#updates

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