I’ve been receiving inquiries about the deployment of our new home site, so I thought I’d post some background in case you’re interested. Thanks to David Kelly of Dickinson College for giving me permission to share his excellent questions.

Question: What was your motivation to move to an open source CMS?

We were charged with a very targeted task, to improve the first impressions presented to visitors when they arrive at the top levels of www.bates.edu.

Question: What alternatives did you consider (both open source and commercial)?

We had been prototyping with Drupal, WordPress, and Expression Engine over about a year and chose WordPress for these sites.

Question: Did you have much prior experience with open source applications?

We did not have previous experience producing a major site (with 30,000-plus page views a day) with these three software packages.

Question: Did you use an implementation partner for the initial installation and configuration of your system?

We hired an interactive agency to provide external strategic input and architecture support within a phased approach. I was able to recruit our first new staff member who started as this project got underway; he did the interface design. We contracted with W3Markup to transform the design into a standards-based, cross-platform theme to apply throughout the site.

Question: Was your implementation a conversion from an existing CMS? If so, from which CMS did you convert?

Yes we converted content from our legacy CMS, Ingeniux.

Question: What was the scope of your implementation (e.g., entire College Web site or smaller sub-sites)?

The vast majority of content at bates.edu is managed within Ingeniux, and we have proposed an initiative to select a new content platform for official academic departments and administrative offices and migrate content into it.

Question: Do you host the CMS system on campus or do you have it hosted by a third party?

We started prototyping on WordPress.com hosting, moved the site to an external host, and then moved it to a new campus hosting environment.

Question: What operating system and database systems do you use with your CMS?

LAMP. [Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP]

Question: What are the ongoing staffing requirements for operating your CMS in terms of FTE, skill sets, and levels of experience with the software?

Since this project covered only the home/news content, our initial and sustaining staff requirements are not extensive. All are permanent staff: 1 executive producer/project manager (40% FTE), 1 interface designer/ Web developer (50%), five staff content contributors (averaging 10% FTE each), and 3-5 student assistants.

Question: Were you able to use existing staff or did you need to hire additional staff?

Our interface designer joined the team at the beginning of the project (he worked 80% for 8 months on it). Otherwise, we’d have outsourced much more of the interface development.

Question: To what level did you need to customize the baseline software to meet your needs?

We installed several plugins to add functions on top of the base software. See this interview for details: http://bit.ly/3oFAup

Question: What other ongoing costs have you encountered with running your CMS?

We continue to improve the site incrementally, but we don’t bill for our time, so there are no other hard costs.

Question: What is the division of labor in Web site management at your college?  For instance, are hardware and programming performed by IT while design and content are handled by a communications group?

For this project, we developed the strategy, configured the software, edited the content, and designed the interface within the Office of Communications and Media Relations. Hosting services and system
integration are provided by the IT division.

Question: Do you have distributed management of content?  In other words, does a wide array of users at your college maintain the content of smaller parts of the Web site?

The architecture and content for our official unit Web sites for academic departments and administrative offices is still managed by many users in our legacy content management system.

The new WordPress site is edited by about 10 current users.

Question: Do these users find your CMS easy to use for content updates?

Yes. The basic editing interface has been intuitive to the degree that users assume they can figure things out on their own. People usually come to me for assistance for more advanced tasks, so we’ve been mostly providing just-in time training.

Question: Do you use a create-approve-post workflow for content updates in your CMS?

I do, indeed, audit changes to content and perform quality assurance after posts are published. We could apply a create/edit/post work flow, but we haven’t needed to do so due to the expertise of our professional staff.

Jay Collier

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