Having been a part of a few Content Management System (CMS) selections for universities both as a committee member and as a vendor, I’ve learned a bit about selection committees. The typical process for selecting a CMS in higher education is:
I love Google. There, I said it. I love the general direction they’re headed in even if I don’t like (sometimes loathe) how they organize their content and navigation. But add two other tools I love and now we have a killer combination of content delivery platform, analytics, and automated report generation. Perfect for faculty and staff and makes my job so much easier.
For the past year my team and I have been working on replacing our outdated static campus map. On Friday April 4, 2014 we made our new online campus map available. This doesn’t sound quite as sexy as I’d like but it will mean a whole lot to the University over the next 5 years.
Map Platform Requirements
I dislike buzzwords for their lack of clarity so let me tell you what I mean by map platform. A mapping platform is both a data repository and a tool. As a database, the platform stores geographic data in a format that allows for building relationships between data, includes coordinates for location, and meta data – fancy word for more data and content associated with the coordinate we’re looking at. As a tool, a map platform allows us to add the data, build relationships to other data, add meta data and to attach visual elements that help a user visualize the data in an easy to consume fashion. Here were our requirements for the map platform.
It occurs to me that I should probably give this project a name other than “University website rebuild”. Bob comes to mind but… For now I’m going to refer to it as NUMedia because the project encompasses all different types of online media whereas the old site could barely handle HTML. So here’s the latest on the project.
Tuesday Mar 25: I did a beta test with 6 faculty members on the Faculty Profiles plugin. A couple of issues came to light quickly.
A little background on the current state of affairs. During the move to stabilize our sites (see Rebuilding a university website. Step one.) we moved legacy content to WordPress and didn’t take time to do a redesign. We just used the content and design we already had. The design isn’t responsive and there’s old code for a mobile site that’s so outdated I’m rather ashamed it’s still there. I haven’t pulled the code because frankly I’m a tad nervous about what might happen if I do. Been there, done that, broke things.
The hodge podge of code, static HTML, and custom CMS pages that was our web infrastructure slowed us down and was choking our ability to let our clients work with their websites. And without a programmer on staff dedicated to it, would have continued to be a time suck for us to had we continued down that path. This is one of the biggest reasons I chose to go with WordPress. I know WordPress and so do several million others. I know I can find out what I don’t know pretty quickly. All of the functions that come with the default install of WordPress are well documented. That’s about 90% of the documentation work that will be needed. And it has an active support forum. WordPress will help us pass the bus test so the next guy or gal that takes my place should be able to pick up where I left off without much fuss (you’re welcome).
I’m about to embark on a BIG construction project and I thought it would be fun to document it as I go. Plus I need a place to write down my thoughts – it helps me think and plan. So this post is the first in a series about my project – taking the Norwich University website from a boring brochure site to a dynamic content and information tool.
When I arrived at Norwich University I knew I had an extensive job ahead of me. The web infrastructure was a mixture of outdated HTML pages, old WordPress installs, Typepad, and custom coded CMS. Many people had the ability to add content but no one was providing guidance to the different groups to create a consistent voice. There wasn’t even a clearly defined goal for the website. My web server was throwing so many errors it was creating an error log of over 100Kb every day. Within 3 months of my arrival, our server shut down because it ran out of room on the disk! I needed a plan and I needed it quick.