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Minds

Responsibilities: Visual design, branding, information architecture, system and database administration, template creation and programming.

Minds is the “netsoc” of NUI Maynooth; an on-campus society dedicated to being a great IT resource for the students of the university. It provides services such as web hosting, file storage, email and discussion groups to its members.

I was contacted by Minds to help with the redesign of their site. I had designed their previous site during college, but it was in serious need of an overhaul. Minds also wanted to give a lot of their services a cohesive and usable web front-end, so that less technical users could benefit.

Identity: Minds logo development

Past Minds logos

Above: Minds logos, past and present, in chronological order (left to right).

The first stage in the design project was to work on the branding for Minds. Minds wanted their identity to feel competent and professional, yet still feel approachable. The new logo design is also consistent with the “box” theme of previous logos.

Visual design: Minds front page

The frontpage of the site

The front page of Minds. The overall design of the site is consistent with the “competent and professional, yet approachable” feel that was desired.

Visual design: Hosted pages

The hosted site sections

To encourage society members to create and actively maintain their websites, a gallery of hosted sites was added to the site. Other plans include a “website of the month” competiton and holding talks on web design.

Programming discussion

The Minds site is served via a custom templating system, written in Perl. This system runs from a single script which sits in the web servers document root. Apache was configured to rewrite page requests to point to this script, which then fetches page content from a database and serves this to the user. Other information in the database is used to generate breadcrumbs and activate visual cues about the location of the page.

This design simplified maintenance. We could avoid keeping hundreds of dynamic scripts, scattered across directories, up to date. We could also still have the benefit of very easy to remember URLs ( e.g. /about/site )

The templating system works alongside the session management system, written in PHP. I was not responsible for the session management system, but it was vital that the two systems worked seamlessly together. They do.

To help the Minds committee add content to their page, I also roughed up a basic content management system.

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