Blog Post

Welcome to the new HASTAC!

The world’s first and oldest academic social networking service has gotten an upgrade and we hope you’ll enjoy it. The HASTAC team, along with a cadre of talented and highly skilled designers and developers, has been working for some time now to create an attractive, robust, and more user-friendly home for our community. HASTAC remains a network dedicated to changing the way we teach and learn, and we continue to bridge the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology through public collaboration. So then, what’s changed and how did we get here? That’s a story unto itself.

First things first

What you’ll likely notice first is our new look and feel. We’ve entirely re-designed the HASTAC brand to better represent what we do and the community we serve. We were fortunate enough to work with an incredibly talented designer and brand architect, one who committed a great many hours of thoughtful work to make the outcome of this project meaningful and beautiful. Like so many things at HASTAC, this work was collaborative, honed and focused by a concerted, collective effort from the HASTAC staff. The ultimate goal was to create a unique visual identity for HASTAC – one that speaks to, for, and about our network and our initiatives.

Our new look is more modern – minimal, livelier, brighter with a refreshed color palette supporting the brand. And, although we aimed for simplicity, it was important that the new HASTAC still represent the complexity and diversity of the HASTAC community and initiatives, with special attention paid to our HASTAC Scholars Program and DML Winners’ Hub, which now sport their own color schemes and logos. From there, a talented team of designer-developers extrapolated these new HASTAC logos and colors into a web presence – cleaner, more direct, and modern. The site design is intended to clearly highlight and easily surface all the amazing content contributed by HASTAC members over the years, and to make it easier than ever to contribute new content.

A bit about our goals, the process, how we reorganized content

Ultimately a project of this size – and it has been a very large undertaking in time, effort, and creative talent – can never be considered, let alone started, without good reason. It’s said a website needs a refresh every five years, so, in a sense it was time. But that alone clearly isn’t reason enough. In fact, there were many reasons to not build a new site: We are a small staff operating as leanly as possible. There is no direct migration path from Drupal 6 (the platform we used for the old site) to Drupal 7 (the platform we’re using for this new site). There are 13,000+ HASTAC users and some 20,000 nodes of content. And, quite frankly, Drupal is a bear. It’s a very flexible, very clever, very extensible bear, but a bear nonetheless. We knew there would be challenges (and there were) for us, for our developers, for our content itself… So why, really?

When considering, and ultimately taking on, a project of this size importance we must always aim to reflect our community and its values. Despite the enormity of the task, the need for this project was plain to see and irrefutable. First and foremost, it was an effort to support and further empower our members and make the site they fervently support more accessible and intuitive. What truly drove and energized us was the practical reality of our community members and how we saw them using the previous HASTAC site. How they posted, how and what they read, how they communicated and otherwise interacted with each other on the site. These observations and the conclusions we drew from them, in conjunction with the considerable amount of very thoughtful feedback the community has given us over the years, were critical to our planning for the new site.

Here’s where we landed:

Create and support greater usability through cleaner, less cluttered design and a more thoughtful, more robust site and content architecture.

After reconsidering everything about HASTAC.org, from content architecture to the front-end design, our main goals were to:

  • Make it easier to use and understand the site and find information being presented
  • Create a simplified, stream-style content presentation, offering more immediate, more direct access to topics, posts, and fellow HASTAC members
  • Use design principles that were more future-proof: a natively responsive, mobile-friendly site

 

With the users in mind, we sought to:

  • Increase user engagement by adding a new-and-improved set of tools for rating content, following topics and users, and sharing via social media
  • Reduce the overhead on posting content, creating groups, and commenting, and lower the barrier to entry for registering as a new member, by using simplified forms throughout the site

 

Performance, longevity and stability, changing from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7:

  • Drupal 7 is cleaner, lighter-weight (i.e. faster!), and more stable than D6
  • The new site is flexible and extensible and will have a longer shelf life than our D6 site
  • We shed our reliance on Drupal Commons and had the community architecture for our site custom built from the ground up.

 

Content re-organization:

  • We reassessed site Topics as they existed on HASTAC and streamlined them to create 6 overarching Topics that accurately categorize all content past and future. The Topics are:
    • Teaching and Learning Practices
    • Humanities, Arts, and media
    • Technology, Networks, and Sciences
    • Social and Political Issues
    • Educational and Cultural Institutions
    • Publishing and Archives
  • Members can now assign one of these topics to to each piece of content they create and add up to three additional sub-topics. Free tagging also remains available.

So, there you have it. That’s an overview of how and why we got here. (Believe it or not, details were excluded.) This project was almost three years in the making, from early concept to result. If you’re curious about any aspect of the process, please let us know. Also let us know if you see broken things or have ideas to make the website even better. We’re not shy. We can post about it and have a conversation here on site or communicate directly. We want hear what you have to say and share what we’re doing. We’re very proud of this thing we’ve (re-)created. From here on out our job is to keep it running smoothly, make it better, and hear your thoughts on how to do both of those things.

In the interim, let's also get back to doing what we do at HASTAC: let’s change how we teach and learn, let’s collaborate, communicate, and shake things up – first here, amongst our colleagues, friends, and peers, in this community; and then, let’s carry what we do here forward and share it far and wide.

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