Frequently asked questions
- What is Compass?
- Who can use Compass?
- What are the benefits of Compass?
- What’s included in Compass?
- What’s not included in Compass?
- Am I able to use Compass for non-T4 web applications?
- What does Compass mean for VCU website visitors?
- When did Compass launch?
- My department needs fill in the blank feature, is this a part of Compass?
- How often will Compass be updated?
- How do I stay informed about Compass’ progress?
- Does my website have to transition to Compass? Will Compass be mandatory?
- Do I have to pay to use Compass?
- How can I ask a question about Compass? Or make a suggestion?
- Does Compass work with the Internet Explorer browser?
Compass is a collaborative initiative from Technology Services and University Relations that is designed to bring consistency in branding and structure to VCU’s web presence. Simply put, it is VCU’s website builder. Not to be confused with T4, the university-supported content management system, Compass integrates with T4 to provide web managers components to build compliant and on-brand websites.
A core part of Compass is the documentation, which:
- Clarifies the framework’s limitations
- Explains how to best use the available components
- Roadmaps in-progress and planned developments
Compass is about working better. Simplifications for developers and easy-access resources for web managers help us get there.
Compass components are available in T4, so staff who have passed the required T4 training are able to access and use the assets.
There are many benefits to using a centrally-supported framework for website development, including:
Establish consistency in the visual design
Featuring foundational components designed with best practices in mind, Compass helps web managers create sites that are consistent in branding and design across the university’s digital portfolio.
Increase audience trust through unified brand experiences
A unified design across our websites establishes a concrete identity with VCU audiences, increasing trust in our brand.
Ensure compliance with accessibility guidelines
Compass web assets comply with relevant federal and state requirements, including ADA/accessibility standards.
Speed up delivery from idea to production
Instead of starting from scratch for each new web project, developers can use components from a shared repository to speed up the process.
Reduce redundancy and increase internal sharing
Redeveloping the basic components needed to build a website for each project is a time waster. Compass’ components are ready to use right in T4.
Compass is an ongoing initiative. The first version, released in July 2020, provides the building blocks to create a website. Supported by Technology Services and University Relations, it is available to T4-trained university staff at no cost.
Compass 1.0 includes:
- Frequently used, responsive components that integrate with T4, including:
- Introductory documentation for using Compass
- Access to the photography library available at brand.vcu.edu
- Twice-weekly open consultation sessions with VCU Web Services
Learn how Compass may be used for digital products built outside of T4.
The Compass team is committed to creating a scalable resource for the university. As such, the web framework does not provide custom solutions or extensive one-on-one support to VCU departments and units as part of the Compass initiative.
Currently, Compass does not include:
- Content strategy/creation
- Custom photography
- Custom design
- Unlimited technical support
- UX strategy
- Pre-designed layouts
For website projects that require customization beyond what Compass offers, you may choose to use VCU University Relations or another vendor. University Relations offers fee-based digital marketing and communication services to support your projects. Learn more at univrelations.vcu.edu.
The Compass framework is CMS-agnostic, allowing adopters to download the assets for their non-T4 projects. You may be use the Compass assets for application development, however, additional UI patterns and considerations that are specific to applications are not available in the current release of Compass.
We plan to conduct feedback sessions centered around gathering specific requirements for application development once the requirements for our organizational websites are mature.
VCU has more than 600 websites. If you visit a handful of these side by side, you will notice inconsistencies. These differences can confuse web visitors as they click from one VCU website to another, resulting in a less-than-ideal user experience. A poor user experience makes people less likely to take the actions we want them to, including filling out an application, scheduling a campus tour or making a donation.
As VCU websites migrate to Compass, users will experience more consistency. Unified websites under the VCU brand will build user trust, promoting increased user engagement. Compass provides the components for web managers to efficiently build aligned VCU websites, while still allowing for customization and individuality.
Technology Services and University Relations piloted select site migrations to Compass during spring 2020. Compass 1.0 became available to the university community in July 2020, after the exploratory migrations were complete.
In early 2020, the Compass team held a feedback session with web managers from across the university to decide what to prioritize for the initial release. We plan to continue this feedback loop and also share the product roadmap with web managers so you can vote on upcoming new features.
In an ongoing effort, we are also collecting feedback and requests for consideration via firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, Compass has been built so it can be improved upon by a unit web manager (or University Relations) to meet requirements that may be specific to a department.
Compass will be regularly improved with seasonal releases that include new components, documentation, bug fixes and other useful assets. The Compass team also is roadmapping features we know you’ll need for forthcoming releases, and welcomes your suggestions for essential and wish-list items.
The Compass team will schedule regular feedback checkpoints with the larger web group to help prioritize features for future releases. We’ll also keep you informed about what to expect in upcoming versions of Compass. Updates will be sent to the Web Users Group listserv, and our team will post regularly here on the Compass blog.
Current VCU websites are not mandated to transition to Compass. It is strongly encouraged for new website builds and redesigns to use Compass, as it adheres to modern design principles, accessibility standards, VCU brand guidelines and security safeguards.
No, the base product is free. If your unit needs specific features not included in the base product, University Relations or another vendor can build those on top of Compass at a billable rate.
We want to hear from you! Check this blog for progress updates, and send your questions and comments to email@example.com. We will compile your frequently asked questions and provide answers in follow-up communications.