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King Saud UniversityThe Deanship of e-Transactions and Communication has blessed and given thanks to the hardworking management team who worked to develop the KSU online portal. The portal is a step forward to enhance and revolutionize web-education, adding a competitive edge to teaching at KSU. Director of the Portal and E-Services Department, Eng. Hamad Al-Qahtani, explained about new KSU’s online portal.

 A new identity

Eng. Hamad Al-Qahtani, said, “There is no doubt that the development wheel of technology spins very quickly and web technologies evolve with it. Our studies and global statistics have shown that methods and approaches to browsing vary from user to user, and are no longer strictly limited to big-screen devices, which used to be the only means to browse. Now the user’s time is limited and he/she wants to get what they want quickly and easily. So because of all of these reasons, we saw that it was time for the KSU portal to be rejuvenated and assume a new identity. There are many changes that have been made to the portal, starting with developing the user’s experience, but the lion’s share of attention has been directed towards the design”.

 King Saud UniversityNobility and modernity

Eng. Al-Qahtani also noted that from now on we can say, “There are no more unclear lines, no more compound colors and no more unorganized space!' Simplicity and expression is the new character of the portal’s new design and that is clear in the formulation of the design itself, through its clear details, with box corners set sharply at 90 degrees and a limited use of color. The new color design relies mostly on two main colors, which are blue and white. The boxes in the design were divided according to the findings of the careful eye-tracking studies, which said there should be more white space and darker fonts for reading. It also means that online services and way for students, faculty members or employees, to benefit from them will be emphasized. This is the result of the state’s support for the enhancement of electronic governmental services. This support program will ensure that the online portal will deliver a quality service to students with special needs and help them browse more easily.”

 On your fingertips

About the beauty of the design and its simplicity, Eng. Al-Qahtani said: “Design is not everything. The entire website has been restructured and enhanced completely to improve the user experience and facilitate finding information with ease and clarity. The changes have been done according to specific criteria, which requires the content to be clear and direct, with more title illustrations, more organized internal links, in addition to reorganizing and restructuring the way the content appears to the students and, of course, putting the services for them first. Now advertising space is well thought out and it follows a contemporary style. The new design is systematically based on the Site Map, which has been accurately categorized for all the university bodies to ensure it is compatible for both the Arab and the foreign user.”

Access for All

On access Eng. Al-Qahtani said “Some of our first priorities were that the portal must be available for all, since everyone has the right to access its content and so there must be no difference between big screens or small ones or the devices of those with special needs.

The new site fulfils those criteria by...

Automatic identification of the devices of people with special needs.

A design to support browsing from smart portable devices, which guarantees the provision of the exact same experience for all users.

Compression the pages to make sure that they load at the same rate for people with slow connections.

Support for multiple languages so a visitor can choose the language of the website and be directed to a replica of the original pages of in all languages ​​available.

New technologies

Eng. Al-Qahtani went on to explain that the new portal had posed many hurdles but they were overcome by using the latest technologies such as HTML 5, the standard programming language, CSS3, the standard language of patterns that was used to beautify the contents of the pages, Bootstrap, the most recent framework available now which was used to organize the pages, and JQuery, which was used to improve the work of many additional frameworks. Then there was Drupal 7, which is the latest version of the content management system, with improved system functions to suit the needs of the portals. The site also required accelerators, which were used increase the speed of the site up to three times the current, and it used the “solr” which is an integrated search engine for the portal to provide the best results on the portal and on affiliate sites.

Integration

There is no way for a distinguished project like the portal of KSU to succeed without integrating with other online services the university provides. Things no longer require repeating one’s effort and work, most of the time, things are done automatically. The new site is able to Integrate with the KSU news and events portal, with other electronic services and is shareable via social Networks.

The university also provides a lot of data about the different packages to support other terminals that rely on data can be available on the portal of KSU, such as mobile applications and other beneficiary peripherals. These packages are offered in the following forms:

 RSS feeds.

Graphic packages, the JSON kind.

Graphic packages, the serialized kind.

Behind-the-scenes facts

Eng. Al-Qahtani said there are a lot of standards, and the team has tried to achieve the highest levels of performance and improve the portal. Search engines were one area when they tried to meet higher standards with the site certified for quality and validity by the organizations concerned with the Web such as W3 and AA for services for people with special needs. As well as this, the Validity of Encoding Certificate (Markup validity) had to be met, a certificate to validate the standard format styles (CSS) needed to be obtained. As well as this dynamic information on the page (Metadata information) had to be organised to meet the main demands of the Web (header and footer of the page, author, date, page banner), in addition to the application of a criteria for evaluating the quality of educational content. Intellectual property rights also had to be observed, content needed to be accurate, objective, and spelling had to be correct.

The site also needed to be modern, it needed to cover topics in full, and, above all, Search Engine Optimization, the “friendship” criteria for cooperation between search engines on the website’s pages, needed to be observed.

Towards a better future

It is worth noting that the new online portal of the KSU was developed to look modern to ensure the ease of use, the accuracy of the content in addition to multiple advantages and features of the new unique design. This will further help the KSU to be a pioneer in the use of modern technologies and reflect a higher level of sophistication in the development of its services.

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