Category Archives: Web Development

Website Outage (Resolved)

This morning from 9:12 am, the HSPH website stopped responding due to an issue with our web application firewall.  The web and server team quickly resolved the issue with our cloud vendors restoring access to the site by 9:32 am.

At 1:23 pm, there were additional related issues at our cloud hosting provider.  These were resolved at approximately 6:00 pm.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by these outages.

Tech Day will be held on September 25

Tech Day 2014Do you have technology questions and don’t know who to ask? Have you ever wondered who all these “IT” folks are and how they can help you? Do you like free stuff? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in luck!

The HSPH Information Technology department is hosting a Tech Day on:

September 25th from 12:30 to 2 in the Kresge Cafeteria Atrium

We’ll be showing off the latest tech from tablets to video conferencing, hosting mini-talks, and raffling away prizes.

Come join us, meet the team, and have a great time.


  • Dell — representatives from Dell will have the latest laptop, tablets and other machines available through the Harvard contract.
  • Harvard TPC — representatives from Harvard’s Technology Product Center will have the latest Apple products available through the Harvard contract.
  • Office 365 — User Services Team will demonstrate Office 365, a cloud-based email that HSPH will be migrating to in 2015.
  • WordPress — the HSPH web team will demonstrate and explain the School’s site-wide responsive design on a variety of devices.
  • Canvas — Media and Educational Technology Services (METS) will demonstrate Canvas, the learning management system that HSPH and Harvard are rolling out over the next year.
  • MediaSite — METS will demonstrate MediaSite, HSPH’s new course capture system that was launched in September 2014.
  • BlueJeans – BlueJeans video conferencing will host a remote session to demonstrate their video conferencing bridging service.
  • Virtual Desktops – The server team will be demonstrating our new virtual desktop, which will allow you to work on the same desktop from anywhere…


  • We will offer quick 10 minute tours of the two new distance learning studios in Kresge LL and the HSPH server room.
Tech Day 2012

Hundreds of people stopped by a previous tech day to view new products and services.

Mini-talks (15 minute Q&A talks in Kresge 110):

  • Apple support: What do we offer?
  • Personal security (HRCI, Encryption, Privacy, and Virus Protection)
  • Digital signage
  • Google analytics
  • General Q & A

Tools to help your HSPH website shine

Summer is an ideal time to look through your site and make sure that everything is shipshape for the upcoming school year. The WebTeam has developed tools to help you identify problems and has suggestions for addressing these problems to make your site shine for the fall. Below are solutions to three common website issues – broken links, typos, and images that lack alt text.

Broken Links

broken_linksBroken links happen. You may have linked long ago to a site that’s now deleted or has since been updated. Such broken links adversely affect your search rankings on Google and are also very frustrating to users who can’t find the content they’re seeking. To help you find and fix broken links, the Broken Link Checker tool on your site’s dashboard will do all the hard work for you. And if you’re one of the primary site administrators, you’ll also be receiving email notifications about broken links on your site.

Click here for a tutorial on how to use the Broken Link Checker tool.


proofreaderWe all occasionally make typos. Unfortunately, typos on websites are there for the world to see and detract from a site’s overall professionalism. To rid your site of typos, you can use the Proofreading tool that’s built into the editor on your dashboard. Just click on the button in the top toolbar and, similar to Microsoft Word, red and green underlines will appear in your text, allowing you to spot issues and correct them.

For a complete tutorial on how to use the Proofreading tool, please click here.

Image Alt Tags

Image Alt Tags ExampleWhen inserting images into your site, always fill in the boxes for title and alt text. Alt text, which stands for “Alternative Text,” is important for people with visual disabilities because screen readers use it to describe what is in a picture. Google also uses the alt text to determine what a picture contains, allowing people to search for images based on keywords. To create alt tags, try to write no more than one-sentence descriptions that are detailed but not wordy. For example, for a picture of soccer on the med school quad, you could write the following alt tag: “Students play soccer on the Harvard Medical School quad on a beautiful summer afternoon.” The sentence is concise yet fully describes what the photo shows.

Click here for more information on alt tags and click here for a guide to best practices.

New Staff Addition: Nick Kashner

Nick Kashner

Nick Kashner

Nick Kashner began working as a co-op on February 5 and will be working 10 hours each week through June as part of his program at Roxbury Community College (RCC).  He is a candidate for an associate degree in Web Technologies with an anticipated graduation date of June 2015.

Nick is a Pawlet Scholarship Award winner and a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Literacy Society at Northeastern University. He has an impressive 3.75 GPA.

Nick is our seventh co-op in the HSPH-RCC partnership coordinated by the HSPH Office of Human Resources.

Please join us in welcoming Nick to the Harvard School of Public Health!

Responsive Design Now Live on HSPH Website

If you are looking at the HSPH website with your smartphone or iPad, you may have noticed that the site is a bit easier to read and navigate today than it was last week.  This is thanks to a major effort by the Department of Information Technology and the Communications Group within External Relations to make the site more “responsive” to the vast variety of devices large and small that are now used to access websites.  Depending on the size of the screen you are using, the HSPH website now will display in a way that makes the type easiest to read and the site navigation easiest to use on that particular screen.

The HSPH website now adjusts based upon screen size optimizing the mobile experience for users.

The HSPH website now adjusts based upon screen size optimizing the mobile experience for users.

With nearly 30 percent of people now accessing the HSPH website each day through smart phones and other devices other than desktop computers, it was important to make the School’s internet presence more responsive to the global internet environment.  Meetings were held over the past couple of months with individuals in HSPH departments who manage portions of the HSPH website to alert them to these changes in the site’s design so they would have time to make adaptations if necessary. We thank all who have been involved in this project for their help in making it a reality and thereby improving the quality of user experience for the millions of individuals who access our website each year.

New Design on iPhone

New Design on iPhone

While we have tested the new designs on literally dozens of devices, we would appreciate hearing from anyone who experiences a glitch on his or her particular smart phone or other device so we can address any problems quickly.  Please email with any problems you identify.

Many thanks to the Web Team and staff in the Communications Group for their hard work on this project!

Julie F. Rafferty
Associate Vice Dean for Communications

Deane Eastwood
IT Director

HSPH Website: Changes in 2014!

Dear HSPH Website Administrators,

We will be holding two HSPH website informational sessions to kick off 2014.  They will be held in Kresge G2 on:

  • Thursday, January 16, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm
  • Tuesday, January 21, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm

At these sessions, we will bring you up to date on planned initiatives for the HSPH website in 2014, including a major initiative to make the website easier to read and use on mobile devices, including cell phones, iPads and the like.  More than 22 percent of web traffic to the HSPH website now comes through mobile devices that employ smaller screens than traditional desktop and laptop computers – and that percentage is expected to grow tremendously. This project will likely influence how you think about such things as layout and site navigation on the websites you update and manage at the School.  David Marshall, senior web developer, will take you through a discussion of “Responsive Design: Making the HSPH Website Mobile-friendly.” Finally, we’ll leave time for your questions on mobile design or other web topics.

campaign responsive

HSPH capital campaign website is one of our first responsive designs

We hope to see you at a session!

Deane Eastwood
for the HSPH Web Team


  • Introduction and recap of key 2013 website accomplishments
  • Highlighted initiatives in 2014
  • Responsive Design: Making the HSPH Website Mobile-friendly
    • What is Responsive Design?
    • Why is it important?
    • When is it coming to HSPH?
    • How does this impact you as site administrators?
    • How can you help with this important initiative?
    • Q&A

WordPress Updates

Over winter break the WebTeam was hard at work making some changes and updates to the website. Most of these changes are related to performance and optimization, so you will not be able to see them. However, there are two main changes that we would like to call to your attention.

widget visibilityWidget Visibility

Widget Visibility is a new module that enables you to configure widgets to appear or to be hidden only on certain pages through use of the Visibility panel. If you cannot see the Widget Visibility module, please contact the WebTeam to have it enabled. For full documentation on how this module works, check out the article here:

Heading StylesHeading Styles

When the website went live almost a year ago, the vendor assigned font styles to the headings H2, H3, and so on down the line, but the heading H1 was never utilized. Because H1 is the most important heading tag for search engines and content optimization, we reintroduced the H1 tag in its proper position (as the title line for each page). We strongly suggest that you look at your pages and update the heading styles to reflect this addition of H1. Doing so will maintain consistency and search/content optimization across the HSPH website. We will be discussing the heading styles further at the WordPress trainings.

Upcoming Trainings

As always, we have some more training sessions to announce for the month of January. One is focused on WordPress, while the other is an open-air session to answer any questions you may have. Please visit: for more info.

WordPress Training Scheduled for November 22nd

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbThe HSPH web team has a great WordPress training session coming up to help you answer all your website questions.

November 22nd at 10:00 AM
Kresge 209

If you want to brush up on your WordPress skills or just need to learn how to edit your site, this session is for you.

The training will cover many of the basic WordPress features, including how to edit pages, add images, and configure menus. It will be hands-on in a computer lab, so you can maximize your learning as you follow along.

For more training sessions and announcements, please check out

Second Round of Website Issues

UPDATE: The IE8 issue has been resolved.

Beginning at approximately 12:00 am on October 25, HSPH began experiencing load balancer and server connectivity issues related to a faulty upgrade by our hosting vendor.

After work throughout the night, the HSPH website was restored at 6:50 am.

The HSPH web team and our vendors are continuing work on the site this morning to resolve a few remaining issues.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this outage caused.

HSPH Website Issues

Beginning at 7:15 pm on October 23, HSPH began experiencing database connectivity issues related to a faulty upgrade by our hosting vendor. A temporary page was created to continue providing access to email, courseware, and other unaffected sites.

After work throughout the night, the HSPH website was restored at 6:15 am.

The HSPH web team and our vendors are continuing work on the site this morning to resolve a few remaining issues.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this outage caused.