Moving to HTTPS

Today we are moving the Bellevue College website to exclusively use encrypted connections (HTTPS).

Forcing the use of HTTPS has a number of benefits, including better privacy and security for our users, better search engine rankings for websites, and the future possibility of using HTTP2 and other new web technologies.

Data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which provides three key layers of protection:

  • Encryption. Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages or steal their information.
  • Data integrity. Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
  • Authentication. Proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.

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Bellevue College moves to Swiftype Site Search

On August 24 we changed the service that provides site search on the Bellevue College website. The service that we have used for many years, Google Custom Search, was discontinued by Google earlier this year. Our new service is powered by Swiftype, a widely used site search provider. We are excited to launch this new system, and hope that it will allow us to provide more relevant and dynamic results to the students and employees we serve.

As Swiftype and Google are different systems, search results may be somewhat different after this change. We will be working with Swiftype throughout the launch period to ensure that search results meet the needs of our campus; it’s very important that students and employees can find what they are looking for!

If you notice issues with the system, please submit a Service Desk ticket. This will help us improve search results over time!

Thank you for your patience and assistance as we make this change!

Updates that made this possible

Moving to Swiftype required us to update several projects that power the BC website; namely Mayflower, Mayflower Homepage, and Globals.

Along with the search updates, we also made some small tweaks to how headings are formatted, how title tags are generated, the small ad section of the BC homepage, and laid the groundwork for some new widgets in WordPress 4.8

The source code for most BC projects is open-source, and available on GitHub.

Website Theme Updated (Mayflower 2.9)

We have released version 2.9 of the Mayflower theme that powers the front-end of Bellevue College’s websites. This is a small, focused release with the following updates:

  • Prevent top menus from breaking if sub-menu items are added. Previously adding a sub-item on a menu displayed in the menu bar would cause the menu bar to break, and odd-looking links to display. These sub-menu items will no longer display.
  • Better ancestor highlighting in top menu bar. Sometimes if you were on a child page whose parent was in the main top menu, the parent would no longer appear as ‘active’ or ‘selected’.
  • Accessibility and functionality improvements for CampusCE Connection. We are working with Continuing Education to bring them into our content management system; these updates allow for a better connection to the CampusCE system they use for course catalog and registration.

Behind the scenes…

We’ve improved how widgets and widget areas are added to the page, giving us more flexibility on how we can work with these areas programatically. Nothing exciting and user-facing, but will open the door for better functionality and easier maintenance in the future.

Theme Update: New features and fixes!

We have just released version 2.8 of our Mayflower theme, and version 3.6 of our Globals style framework. We’ve been working on this for a while…

New Features

  • Featured slider re-order interface now displays slide title
  • Site managers can now choose to hide ‘date posted’ for posts
  • Site managers can now choose to display the post author on posts (next to the date!)
  • You will now get a warning if you attempt to insert an image without alternative text. You can also choose to mark an image as purely decorative, which will prevent it from being communicated to screen readers.
  • All content pages now publicly display the last updated date (added to comply with website standards)
  • Users can now enable ‘Asides’ (single page sidebar) for posts and pages. This is done through a plugin.

Visual Improvements

  • We have re-arranged and improved how options are laid out in the Customizer. Homepage options also now only display if you are looking at the site homepage.
  • Images and image galleries now function much smoother, and are presented consistently. Image galleries in particular now resize better for mobile devices.
  • Pagination is now more robust and visually cohesive

Bug Fixes and Behind the Scenes improvements

  • Featured Slider image no longer overlaps title in dashboard
  • Homepages now have (hidden) Heading 1 for accessibility
  • Added new functionality to support bringing the Continuing Education website in to the Bellevue College theme (improved search support, templates, and integration with CampusCE)

WordPress updated to 4.4!

A new version of WordPress has landed! We have updated the main Bellevue College website to WordPress 4.4.2, the latest version.

Normally update our environment 1-2 months after a new version is released to the public, so that we can fully test things, and make sure that our website stays happy and healthy. Don’t worry though, all security updates go in place immediately!

Want to learn more about WordPress 4.4, and the new features it offers? Check out the announcement article!

WordPress 4.4 “Clifford”