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Aspiring:mathematician, composer, photographer, fiddler

27 Sep 2014 | categories: Chronology, Design

Seminar Web Design

When I became an organizer of the Johns Hopkins Topology Seminar, I was asked to design a new webpage for it. A seminar webpage should:

  1. Advertise future talks, especially the next one,
  2. Allow invited speakers to easily identify available slots, and
  3. Archive past talks.

My solution:

  1. List all talks—both past and future—chronologically (oldest first), and
  2. Automatically scroll down to the next talk when the page loads.

So to see the archive of past talks one scrolls up! I’ve not seen this approach before but think it’s quite natural. Additionally:

  1. Animate the scrolling so visitors know to scroll up, and
  2. Float the header above this whirling animation.
  3. Separate past and future talks with a horizontal line, and
  4. Align this line with the bottom edge of the header at the end of the animation.
  5. Display all future speakers but hide their titles and abstracts until a week before they speak.

All this is achieved automatically with a few lines of jQuery code at the end of an easily maintained static webpage. The code parses the very same dates which humans read.

The page also automatically announces upcoming talks by email: A cron job (“seminarbot”) on the department server uses PhantomJS to fetch and execute an email-generating function reminderEmail() embedded in the webpage and drops the output into sendmail.

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