ATUS launches new data-driven website

Western Today staff

ATUS at Western Washington University has launched its new Drupal website. One of the first large administrative offices to convert to Drupal, ATUS is pioneering some website concepts that could be used by other offices in the future.

"The ATUS website is a large part of our service-orientation," said John Farquhar, director of ATUS. "Our plans have the site evolving to provide new online points-of-service and opportunities to engage with our staff."

Organized around topics rather than by the offices that support them

The heart of the ATUS site is the bright green circles that represent the topics of the articles provided for the community. These topics were selected by looking at current usage data both for the website and for Help Desk calls and emails.

Here the user can search for self-help articles provided on all the topics we support, regardless of the office that supports that service. The user does not need to understand ATUS organization to get the help they need. In addition, each article is tagged and these tags can be searched for more articles on these sub-topics. Later this summer an advanced search capability will be added to facilitate searching across the site by audience, tags, keywords, and subjects.

Database Driven

A Content Management System such as Drupal is an essential part of a modern website. John Farquhar, ATUS director notes that “ATUS creates numerous online help articles that need frequent revision. Through the use a modern content management system, it will be easier to keep these articles up-to-date.”

The new site is also taking the first steps toward truly transactional functionality rather than just static information pages. One example of this is that we are putting several of our print catalogs into true databases. Rather than scan down a list of equipment to borrow or software to buy, our new system allows the user to search for the things they need. The Classroom app is an example of this, equipment and software are coming this fall. Drupal makes these databases easy for non-technical people to maintain.

Write Once, View Anywhere

Some data is too important to make people come to the ATUS site to view. An example of this are the Help Desk technology alerts. These are now repeated on both the ATUS home page and myWestern with an RSS feed from the ATUS site.

Another example is that this fall we hope to have a “New-to-WWU” function in myWestern and on our website that lists titles and links to articles on our site that are useful to new employees and new students at Western. These article lists are automatically generated on the Drupal system when we tag an article as being pertinent to new employees or new students. These are just two examples of echoing data to where the user is rather than making the user find the data. 

Continuous Review

​ATUS is also committed to keeping this site updated and changing to reflect the needs of the season or current technology events. The slideshow on the home page will change frequently to reflect important items. Our News area, at the bottom of the page, highlights topical stories that used to be featured in ATUSNews. The quicklinks on the right side of the page take people to other resources. A planning committee meets regularly to keep this site fresh and to add new content.

Many Hands

The site was developed as a joint effort between Web Communication Technologies (WebTech) and ATUS with design by Derek Bryson of the Office of Communications and Marketing. WebTech provides the platform and an enormous amount of training and guidance on best practices. They also styled the site to match Derek’s design. ATUS designed the content organization, implemented the architecture, and wrote all the content.

Marie Raney, formerly Western's webmaster, was brought back from retirement to see this project through. The ATUS Drupal architect is Dennis Terrell, a web developer now working in Desktop Support. He implements the site and will help our editors and content providers with new features in the future. Dennis says about the site "The site design was driven by data we collected from our old website's analytics and from Help Desk call records. We used the Drupal platform combined with the data to build features our users want and were asking for with their mouse clicks.  Based on that data, you will see some new features soon.  We have some great ideas are excited to get them built on such a scalable and accessible platform. "

ATUS is excited about their new site, but would like to make sure Western is finding what they need. Please see our survey at and let us know what you think.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 11:11am