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labs.sapo Platform

27 Janeiro 2009
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This post was originally published by Bruno Abrantes here.

Project Timeframe

September 2008 – October 2008

Motivations

The recently established labs.sapo/ua is Portuguese Internet Giant SAPO‘s latest attempt at gaining a foothold in the Higher Education space. The lab is a physical space in the Universidade de Aveiro campus where SAPO supports the development of innovative projects in the Web and Technology fields in tight collaboration with the University itself. In order to promote the initiative building a solid Web presence was top priority. The platform to be developed needed to promote communication with the outside world and shine a light on the various ongoing projects at the lab. With this in mind, me and the rest of the team decided to develop a platform based on WordPress MU that would support an indefinite number of personal and project blogs. This platform would need to be flexible enough to be deployed nearly as-is in a number of situations, such as other Universities or other SAPO sponsored events (as is the case of labs.sapo/codebits and labs.sapo/summerbits).

Interface Design

The main goal for the design of this platform was to try and make it as usable and nimble as possible. The front page would also need to successfully integrate highlighted content coming from the various blogs the platform supports. Colour-wise, a pastel green was chosen because it best represents the University of Aveiro, while the dark gray was chosen keeping in mind the need for adequate contrast when porting the platform over to other use cases (where the main colours would vary).

For the front page, three main areas are considered: highlights, where the three most important posts at that particular time are displayed, and two areas dedicated to display the last updated project and personal blogs, respectively.

Development Process

Since I was integrated in a developing team, my main area of intervention had to do with designing and coding the WordPress themes that support the core of the platform. As such, a lot of my work focused on interaction design and XHTML/CSS  development. Some simple Javascript (written using jQuery) was needed for the Projects page, since there was a need to display a lot of information in a simple and compact format.

Final Thoughts

This was a great web design experience, in that I got to design a truly community-driven platform which is now being widely used in a variety of contexts. This project also represented my first contribution to the labs.sapo/ua, and was my first foray into designing and developing WordPress themes.



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