Ed Tech UI Guy

Monday, December 20, 2004

New Stellar Templates

Today I am working on a new template Stellar websites (Stellar is MIT's Course Management System). Stellar community members select a template when they set up a class website. We designed the templates for Stellar back in 2001 before our design team was really hip to Designing with Web Standards. We're going to replace the old table-based templates with three new CSS-based templates. Some advantages:
  • The sites will be more accessible to screen readers (we were doing well before, but this will be better)
  • Page load time will go down fractionally do to the smaller pages
  • It's going to be much easier to design custom templates. In most cases we can edit just the CSS without touching the XSLT. This will open up new possibilities for community involvement.
  • The new templates are fixed width, which will make the text easier to read on wide screens.
The changes I'm doing are mainly to the HTML produced by the current templates. For the CSS I am going to use much of the same simple graphic design used for the gateway Stellar website. This will probably be the default choice for new sites. Stacy and Joanna, the other designers in our team will come up with other themes by creating new CSS files, that override the default rules. It's going to be beautiful. It's like building CSS Zen Garden into our Course Management System.