This is a couple weeks late, but I’ve been too busy to keep up with myself. Eariler this month, the Pitt Web team launched the university’s Office of Institutational Advancement site. Basically, that’s the office that solicits donations to the university.

My role included the front-end development, including the XHTML, CSS, and Flash work. I did not get a crack at the information architecture. The sections have a lot of overlap and are a bit confusing, especially since the office is primarily focused on their capital campaign. Somehow, this got spread over multiple main navigation sections. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, this issue could not be addressed.

Flash, XML, and CSS

For the Flash I developed a random photo generator ActionScript 2.0 class that I believe is more elegant than your typical Javascript random photo script. I needed an application that could handle the random photos and captions. And I wanted the photo to fade in when loaded instead of suddently appearing on the sceen, as with Javascript. I used a style sheet to control the text, links, and hover effects. And I used an XML file to populate the photos and content. The idea being I wanted to make this an application that I could reuse, and one that could be updated via XML outside of the Flash environment.

The Flash detection is deconcept’s FlashObject, which I think it the smartest Flash detection utility around. It works extremely well with XHTML and CSS.


I also convinced my boss to shell out the $25 to get Kaosweaver’s Expert Breadcrumbs to generate the site’s breadcrumbs. I don’t have extensive experience in breadcrumb scripts, but this one works nicely and is easy to implement.

My Rating

I’m not sure how scientific this is, but out of…um…a possible 10 (I’m making the system up in my head as I type) this site comes in around 4. Good Flash utility and decent design, but the confusing nature of the navigation detracts from the overall usability of the site. And even though the whole point of the site is to generate more donations to the university, there should be a greater call to action on the home page. Also, the donation links on the subpage goes to a form that as of this writing does not conform to the site’s design (third party handles the form, per the client). This has got to be confusing for users, and may deter them from giving online.

Perhaps I’m being harsh, but whatever. I’ll think about this rating idea some more and maybe develop something more structured in the future. Because critiquing sites that you have built is a load of fun, especially when you see flaws!