October 5, 2016

Redesigned College Catalog Launched

The 2016-17  edition of the online course catalog launched on September 28, 2016, replacing the old website with a new edition featuring an updated design, a new site  structure, an archive of the previous year’s catalog, and the end of the “frames”-based navigation.

The new site is powered by SmartCatalog IQ, which is an evolved version of the software that drove the previous iteration of the catalog. The catalog’s web address (http://catalog.lafayette.edu) remains the same, but links to pages within the catalog have changed.

The practical effect of this is that — with the exception of top-level links to catalog.lafayette.edu — all of the old links to the catalog need to be updated.   We recommend you check and update all of your web catalog links within your website. To help with this transition, we created a “Linking to the Course Catalog” guideThe guide provides instructions on adding and editing links to the catalog, as well as how to make use of the new “Courses” page template.

“Courses” Page Template

A common task on academic websites is building a course page listing all of the offerings associated with a given program or department. Previously these pages needed to be assembled by hand, but the new catalog provides an application programming interface (API) that allowed us to automate the process.

The “Courses” template in the “Hermione” WordPress theme (available to websites hosted on forge.lafayette.edu) can generate this list automatically. You specify the academic program you’d like to feature, and then the template queries the College catalog for a list of courses associated with that program. It then displays that information on the page, updating it as changes (edits to course descriptions, the addition or deletion of courses, etc.) occur in the College catalog.

If you need additional assistance with the transition, contact the Lafayette Help Desk at help@lafayette.edu or (610) 330-5501. If you have questions about the new catalog, email the Registrar’s Office at registrar@lafayette.edu.

The End of Frames

Frames were a popular design pattern in the early days of the web. This style of design made it easy to maintain a consistent site navigation, but it made it very difficult to directly link to particular pages within the website. The old catalog was no exception — its frame set consisted of a left-hand navigation window and a right-hand content window. In addition the hyperlinking issues, these frames approach caused navigation issues. If someone did a web search for a particular course, they’d find the course … but the webpage would load without the sidebar navigation.

The redesigned site addresses these issues by eliminating the frames while simultaneously updating the catalog to more-closely follow the College’s standard theme. This will make browsing the catalog — as well as linking to it — considerably easier.