Thoughts on the Canadian Historical Association Website Re-Design

The Canadian Historical Association is in the process of re-designing its website and has announced a soft launch of the re-design. You can check out the new look for the website and vote in an online opinion poll about the site. Unfortunately, an online poll is a rather limited way to get feedback so I thought I would post my thoughts about the soft launch version of the site here so we can start a conversation on this topic.

While I realize this is not the official launch of the site, there are a few things missing that I hope make it into the final version:

  1. RSS feeds: Right now, the site is not a very useful portal for news and information about the Canadian history research community if it doesn’t provide subscription services. Adding an RSS feed will also allow that content to be redistributed through other channels (like this blog, *wink wink*).
  2. User-generated content: It can be a lot of work to actively maintain regular content for a website. Why not outsource that work to your community? The re-design should include some basic Web 2.0 functionality for members, including commenting, user-created news, wiki-based content, and media uploading.
  3. Content aggregation: The CHA website should be a central portal for Canadian history content on the internet. The links section of the soft launch page is missing some significant online resources in Canadian history, including H-Canada, Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, Canadian Historical Review, and Early Canadiana Online. While the links section needs to be fleshed out, the CHA website should also develop more innovative means of integrating open online digital history content. This could include embedding video and audio content, highlighting and re-posting new open journal articles, and compiling an aggregated feed of Canadian history blog posts. There is a lot of open online content out there and the CHA website should channel this content to the Canadian history community.
  4. Online social networking: Does the CHA have a Twitter account or a Facebook page? If so, this should be made evident on the new website. As it stand, it looks like only the CHA Graduate Students’ Committee has a Facebook page (although it has been relatively inactive since May 2009). The site should also include social bookmarking buttons to help disseminate news and information to a wider audience.

These, of course, are just suggestions and shouldn’t detract from the tremendous improvements made from the previous version of the website. It is important, though, that the CHA website include some of these suggestions to take full advantage of the rich digital resources and tools available to Canadian historians.

What do you think? Please leave a comment with your thoughts about the site re-design.

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