Thoughts on Updating the CoA Website

I’ve been thinking about potential improvements that could be made to the website so that it’s more useful to heralds and the populace. 

Here are some notes about this effort based on what I’ve learned so far.

Top-Line Objectives

There are three main avenues for improvement, as discussed further below.

  • Appearance
    • Improve the site’s readability on modern mobile and desktop devices.
    • Refresh the site’s appearance and give it a more “contemporary” feel.
  • Organization
    • Make it easier for non-heralds and new heralds to find key information.
    • Reduce effort for experienced heralds to reach key “hot-spot” resources.
  • Education
    • Link to more Internet reference material frequently used by heralds.
    • Clarify whether articles are authoritative, incomplete, or out of date.

Heralds In Ordinary

I don’t have any official responsibility or authority to work on this project, but I hope to make contributions that are useful to the heralds who do, including:

  • Clarion Herald: responsible for heraldic education, including web content. 
  • Codex Herald: responsible for website technology and maintenance.

Technology Platform & Constraints

The website is built on a templating system that applies consistent headers, footers, and stylesheets across the entire site; some minor upgrades may be made to that along the way, but we don’t intend to replace it with a new CMS any time soon.

There are thousands of HTML files on the server, and practical limitations mean that any site-wide changes must be able to be implemented using batch commands and the existing templating system — changes that require manual editing should be limited to a relatively-small number of top-level pages (maybe a few dozen, but definitely not hundreds or thousands of files).


Issues to Address

  • The site is difficult to use on small phone screens; among other problems, the minimum width is larger than the screen size, so you need to scroll side to side to read long lines.
  • On many modern screens, the font size is a bit too small.
  • There’s no search function.
  • Some pages are really long, which can be bewildering.


Issues to Address

  • Some of the navigation links are confusing, such as “Links” and “Jobs.”
  • Very few of the most-visited pages are accessible directly from the home page.
  • Some tools are referenced and linked to with no explanation, like Oscar and some of the other registration-related tools. 
  • There’s a dizzying amount of jargon and acronyms that new heralds and members of the public will not be familiar with.


Issues to Address

  • The content of the site is relatively static; only a handful of articles are added per year.
  • Some articles are old and at least partly out of date.
    • For example, some articles pre-date SENA and don’t reflect those rule changes, or recent precedents. 
    • The links aren’t date-stamped, and only a few of the articles include publication dates, so it’s not obvious to readers whether something is two years old, or two decades. 
    • Outright errors in the articles are corrected by noting them in the “errata” page rather than in the articles themselves — but that process is very incomplete, and most people won’t know that they should check the errata file at all.
    • It seems like there’s no protocol for updating out-of-date articles, presumably because we don’t have permission to do so without the participation of the original author.
    • Codex reports that over the last decade there’ve been few requests from authors to update their articles; fewer than one per year.
  • There are many useful articles and web resources that are not on the website, including ones that the senior heralds rely on regularly, but which folks only discover through serendipity or word-of-mouth within the heraldic community; submitters and newbie heralds are unlikely to find them on their own.
  • The articles from the KWHSS proceedings are included in the article pages.

Current Article Statistics

  • Armory: 36 links; 11 of which are to off-site sources. Over the last decade, 4 new articles have been added.
  • Names: 210 links, 14 of which are to off-site resources. Over the last decade, about 26 new articles have been added, plus the 44 “Name Resources” written by past Pelicans for cover letters, for a total of 70 additions. In that time, two articles have been removed.
  • Voice: 6 links. No changes in the last decade.
  • Silent: 28 links. Total of 6 new links in the last decade, one removed.


  • The College has struggled with similar questions for decades. 
  • At times, efforts were made to include links to more off-site resources, but concerns were raised: what if the website goes away, or what if it includes some errors, or new errors are introduced after we link to it, or it isn’t updated to reflect new precedents and rule changes? If we link to an article, and submitters rely on it, will they be angry at us if their submissions are returned?
  • Efforts were made to mirror authoritative articles to the heraldry website, but it was labor intensive, and authors expressed concerns about updating them, the format being messed up, etc. Circa 2007, the then-Codex Herald (Robin Gallowglass) came up with a plan to automate the process of mirroring articles, but it was not completed and the effort was abandoned. 
  • In recent years, there’s been a push to get people to write articles for the site, but the volume of submissions is quite limited, with less than a handful of new articles added per year that were written by people other than Laurel’s deputies.


  • Develop a system of marking articles and off-site resources by their age and authoritativeness.
    • If there’s an article or off-site link that’s useful, but has some errors or limitations, that should be clear when people click through to it.
    • Likewise if there’s an article that was authoritative at the time it was published, but hasn’t been updated for twenty years, there should be a way of making that clear to the reader.
  • Solicit suggestions from members of the College for useful off-site resources.
  • Request mirroring of off-site resources to allow their survival if the original host goes offline.
  • Consider using a Google Drive to facilitate submission and hosting of additional resources.

Additional Resources To Include

Examples of things that aren’t accessible from the CoA website, and aren’t easy for submitters, or new/intermediate heralds to find:

  • All of the locally-hosted (or SCA-hosted) items from past KWHSS proceedings
  • Kingdom handbooks and other resources, such as the East Kingdom Heraldic University videos.
  • Useful blog posts by Marie de B, Istvan, Iago’s list of period armory sources and color palettes from period sources, Kiho’s Mon site, etc.
  • Examples of scroll texts and ceremony procedures from various kingdoms that could be used as inspiration.
    • Maybe a submission form with file uploads parked in a Google drive for allowing heralds in various kingdoms to send in scroll texts and ceremonies along with permission for the CoA to host and index them,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *