Issue 49, Fall 2011
by Marie Raney
The new Western website went live August 30, 2011 - two days ahead of schedule! ATUS Web Services would like to thank the hundreds of you who participated to make this design a truly Western production. To learn more about the design process and how the campus participated, please visit http://www.wwu.edu/redesign.
Our first goal was to get the external-facing website live by September of this year. Stage 2 of the redesign has begun and will include three parallel efforts:
|New Western Template for HTML sites||Creation and dissemination of the new Western Template matching the new university design for those on the static (html) university template.||Design done, roll-out started Fall 2011|
|Western Web Edit System for Depts/Colleges||Design of a "starter site" for those colleges and departments/offices that wish to move their sites to the campus-hosted Drupal environment. This system would provide basic dynamic capability including web-forms, blogs, and content management.||Started Fall-term 2011; publically available 2012|
|Mobile Solutions||mobile solutions for our websites||Starting 2012|
Currently hundreds of sites at Western have taken advantage of the ease of using the Western Template with Dreamweaver or Contribute for sites on CampusWeb and MyWeb. Now that the “look” for Western’s main website has changed, we have updated the Western Template to provide the new look to these sites and new sites. We also will be providing this template with all requests for new sites on Campusweb. The Template is slightly wider than the previous system and includes four different layouts this time, in addition to a slideshow template and a photo gallery template.
We have already begun to contact departments using the old template to schedule time for us to update them to the new template. Depending on the size of the site, we schedule one or more days when no changes will be made. During this period Web Services will copy the site to the test server, make the modifications, and allow the department time to review the site. Then, when agreed, we publish the site to the live server with minimal or no outage.
If the department desires training on editing the new site, we provide that as well. However, most users familiar with editing procedures for the old template will not find much difference with the new one. To learn more see http://www.wwu.edu/templates. If you wish to have your site updated soon, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The site was successfully built on top of Drupal, an open-source Content Management System (CMS). It runs on top of a “LAMP” system (Linux operating system, Apache webserver, MySQL database, and PHP code processor) running on two virtual machines that are load-balanced by the F5 “Big IP”. The pages are cached, meaning that most views of the webpages use a pre-stored copy of the page, so that the database and PHP code are only hit when caching is refreshed. This gives the system the ability to carry far more traffic than would otherwise be possible. Our system attracts nearly 50,000 hits a day and could go much higher in emergency situations, so these precautions are important to keep our site running smoothly.
“Western Web Edit” will be a campus-hosted Drupal environment providing basic dynamic capability including web-forms, blogs, and online content management. There are two parts to making Drupal sites available to colleges and departments on campus; the infrastructure and the design. The infrastructure that will make it possible for ATUS Web Services and Technical Services to jointly maintain and upgrade the Drupal sites for the departments involves creating a multi-site environment where we can easily make security upgrades to the Drupal code across the dozens of sites we expect to transition to Drupal from their current solutions. We anticipate that in order to facilitate this we will begin by creating a “standard” Drupal site that has the functionality most required by campus sites. This functionality would include such things as blogs, photo galleries and slideshows, calendars, news and events from rss feeds, and custom web-forms, as well as static pages. Log-in for editing or intranet sections of the site would be provided using our standard universal ID and password.
The second part of making Drupal sites available is creating a design or sets of designs that dovetail nicely with the new Western website design. We are currently working on both left-navigation and horizontal menu-bar versions that we anticipate will meet the needs of the campus. The College of Business and Economics, Woodring College, and University Communications are working together with ATUS to produce attractive, flexible designs and functionality sets that will work for our first generation of Drupal sites.
Once we have completed the infrastructure and themes for these new Drupal sites we will be working with colleges and departments that need a Drupal site to design, implement and maintain the content in their new sites. We expect to start this process spring term.
We believe our Western websites need to be more mobile-friendly to better support use by the growing number and types of mobile devices now available. However, it was decided by university management that our first goal was to create a new outward-facing Content Management System (CMS) based website; our second goal would be to start making this technology available to departments and colleges; and third, to make all our sites increasingly mobile-friendly. This third goal also includes identifying a smaller set of features that should be easily performed on mobile devices and working towards the creation or procurement of mobile applications for these features.