CMS Lessons Learned at Vassar by Megg Brown
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CMS Lessons Learned at Vassar by Megg Brown

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At Vassar College, they use Cascade Server as a repository for over 120 unique sites. Each has a core structure called "Sample Site," a starting point for new responsive designs and a foundation for ...

At Vassar College, they use Cascade Server as a repository for over 120 unique sites. Each has a core structure called "Sample Site," a starting point for new responsive designs and a foundation for upgrading older sites to HTML5. Since 2009, they have used database publishing for news, schedules, and bios. With their catalogue and other publications that they publish plain HTML to include in sites with PHP–utilizing single sources of content.

Vassar College developed its own reports in Cascade to watch trends, active/inactive users, new/dated pages, and to share information with colleagues.

Megg will share how Vassar College has sites set up in Cascade, their methods to repurpose content with database publishing and include files, and how they developed a reporting tool with database publishing and dynamic charts.

Hear Vassar's lessons learned so you can benefit from what they have explored.

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  • I'll cover a lot of ground going over Sample Site and how we've set it up. All the information is available online at webdesign.vassar.edu/csuc12
  • ... we are ambitious in our web design strategy
  • What has worked for us is to treat Cascade as a content repository. I like Cascade because we can tell it to publish whatever HTML we want.
  • Cover everything about other 3 sites, then the rest is on Sample Site Communications: Site used for external assets Central scripts, images, and include files Legacy location for scripts Secure Comm Site used for external secure assets CSS and images For viewing published shared assets inside Cascade Ideally all shared assets/scripts to be in moved to this site _internal
  • Configuration sets -- some sites are set up to publish an HTML version as well as a imple include file (catalogue, handbooks)
  • Now that we ’ve gone through the pieces we have to work with, we can dive into howwe have the actual pages set up.
  • Folder per year Page per announcement We set up new folders every year, with a placeholder, saves user from having to move a copy to a new folder Removed folder if they want it removed from the site entirely Otherwise start date and end date are used to archive announcements
  • Include Files and Database Publishing to take advantage of MySQL. I ’ll start with Include Files
  • Every department and program has catalogue content in its site. The catalogue is updated by the Registrar. As changes are made all the sites are up-to-date because the content is included. We just use a little bit of PHP . Which includes this plain HTML of the courses into the page.
  • We can only single-source so much.... we need to find out what users are adding, updating, and more importantly, what they aren ’t updating.
  • Lead to example of include file use
  • But how do we tell who is updating their bio, and more importantly, who isn ’t??
  • But how do we tell who is updating their bio, and more importantly, who isn ’t??
  • Backup slide on number of sites/categories of sites.

CMS Lessons Learned at Vassar by Megg Brown CMS Lessons Learned at Vassar by Megg Brown Presentation Transcript

  • Lessons LearnedSite Best Practices, Content Repurposing, and Custom Reporting at VassarMegg Brown, Assistant Director of Web Development, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY2012 Cascade User Conference
  • OutlineIntroduction Quick facts about Vassar and how we’re structuredSample Site The site we copy in CascadeContent Repurposing Include files Database publishing Site variablesReporting Email Charts
  • About Vassar College Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861 Located in Poughkeepsie, New York 80 miles north of New York City 2,400 students 290 faculty
  • Web Developmentcustom designseach site Located in Communications 7 FTE Director Assistant Director Web Designers (4) Web Developer Each design is unique Over 100 official websites maintained with Cascade
  • Web Maintenance
  • Cascade as content repository Our approach has been to treat Cascade as our content repository We publish what you need, where we need it Database publish was huge for us We get to decide what it looks like, including under the hood We developed the HTML we want in our sites We set up include files so we don’t have to publish too much when we have changes We prefer a “Push CMS” It works for us If something happens to the CMS server it won’t take down the published sites We can restrict the CMS server to campus
  • Have a “SampleSite” in Cascade A site ready to copy to create a new site Saves you from starting from scratch Designer builds HTML/CSS outside the CMS Set up site in Cascade with content before design is ready Merge the two to produce the launchable site
  • More about ourprojects on ourblog webdesign.vassar.edu
  • Structure of“Sample Site” If we had to do it over again 4 sites work together to make a We would have two sites: 1) shared assets, published to secure site launchable site 2) the site-specific assets Assets outside Cascade Shared across sites A note about site exports Secure domain for hosting Have your site as self-contained as possible published files displayed inside if you plan to share examples. Cascade (CSS, images) To import a site connected to assets in multiple Assets used inside Cascade sites, the other sites and assets need to exist. So if we share an example we would need to Shared across sites provide an export of each site used. Site-specific assets
  • Templates have aconsistentstructure As little HTML as possible html5 Regions in sets of 3 DEFAULT-PRE DEFAULT DEFAULT-POST Region assignments: Site-wide in Template Section-wide in Configuration (created as needed) Page-specific in Page PHP for site name, hide display name on homepage
  • Templates have aconsistentstructure As little HTML as possible html5 Regions in sets of 3 DEFAULT-PRE DEFAULT DEFAULT-POST Region assignments: Site-wide in Template Section-wide in Configuration (created as needed) Page-specific in Page PHP for site name, hide display name on homepage
  • Templates have aconsistentstructure As little HTML as possible html5 Regions in sets of 3 DEFAULT-PRE DEFAULT DEFAULT-POST Region assignments: Site-wide in Template Section-wide in Configuration (created as needed) Page-specific in Page PHP for site name, hide display name on homepage
  • Templates have a consistent structure<!--#START-CODE<title>#END-CODE--> As little HTML as possible <!--#START-CODE<title>#END-CODE--><system-page-title/> <system-page-title/><!--#START-CODE html5 <!--#START-CODE --<?php echo $_SERVER[V_CONTENT_SITENAME]; ?> Regions in sets of 3 <?php echo $_SERVER[V_CONTENT_SITENAME]; ?> - -Vassar College</title> Vassar College</title>#END-CODE--> DEFAULT-PRE #END-CODE--> DEFAULT DEFAULT-POST Region assignments:<!--#START-CODE <?php if($_SERVER[PHP_SELF]! <!--#START-CODE <?php if($_SERVER[PHP_SELF]!=$_SERVER[V_FOLDER_PATH]./index.html){ ?>#END- =$_SERVER[V_FOLDER_PATH]./index.html){ ?>#END- Site-wide in TemplateCODE--><h2 class="pagetitle"><system-page-display- CODE--><h2 class="pagetitle"><system-page-display-name/></h2><!--#START-CODE<?php } }?>#END-CODE--> name/></h2><!--#START-CODE<?php ?>#END-CODE--> Section-wide in Configuration (created as needed) Page-specific in Page PHP for site name, hide display name on homepage
  • Next we’ll jump over to the Administration area
  • AdministrationArea of SampleSite What we don’t use: Workflow We prefer workflow to take place outside the CMS. Publish Sets When testing upgrades of Cascade we need to remember to disable them. Connectors We have not yet explored Connectors.
  • Configuration Sets We try to have as few as possible, but we do have sites with a set per sectionContent Types Now being used on all new/upgraded sitesData Definitions Used in some websites, all announcements, all biosMetadata Sets All sites set with Display Name and Title inline We try to use Custom Metadata over Data Definitions.
  • Destinationsand Transports Each site is set up to publish Announcements to MySQL MySQL database for reporting Database named CMS Audit “Leave this checked” Live website Test website When we set up a new site we add groups to the Destinations -- common step we missed For Transports, all sites are assigned a unique Site ID from a table we maintain in MySQL
  • .htaccess and.htaccess-staging Two files one for live website, publishes to subdomain: samplesite.vassar.edu one for test version, publishes to subfolder: test.vassar.edu/samplesite/web Rewrite rules to match URL for Cascade “Live” link Contains Server Variables Paths and Settings Content
  • .htaccess and.htaccess-staging Contains Server Variables Paths and Settings Site ID Subfolder path (staging version) Include path Content Site name Box number Office location Office URL (deep link in campus map for office location) Office phone Office fax Office contact email Contact information used by the announcements system
  • index and template index Assigned to the standard template Copied to make new pages Once the site is filled in with content we determine if the homepage warrants its own template
  • index and template template A sample page with examples of all the HTML we need the CSS to accommodate Does not get removed Does not get indexed, but is published Used when we need to tweak and test the CSS
  • index and template template A sample page with examples of all the HTML we need the CSS to accommodate Does not get removed Does not get indexed, but is published Used when we need to tweak and test the CSS
  • site-xml.xml Publishes XML of the site,similar to the index block for use with a PHP script that parses the XML into the site navigation
  • Users see the assets folder, but can only publish nav; the rest ishiddenThey can add files to the “docs” folderThey also don’t see the .htaccess files or the template page
  • ContentRepurposingInclude files College Catalogue Student Handbook College RegulationsBenefit When changes are made the updates appear on each site; no need to copy-and-paste updates across multiple sites Accuracy: pages remain up-to-date, refreshed with each new edition of the source publication
  • Catalogue content included in each academic site Catalogue content updated in by the Registrar Courses updated in Banner All other content in Cascade How it works A line of PHP is all we need to include each section in another site <?php @readfile(“http://catalogue.vassar.edu/includes/departmentpages/BIOL.php ”); ?>
  • ContentRepurposingDatabase publishing News Press releases published from Communications fed to sites by keywords Departments post their own announcements Both rolled together to show headlines and news in site design Bios Main content and custom metadata published to MySQL from Cascade Table of data from Banner Table of data to override names and titles when needed
  • Multiple biosacross sites Faculty each have a home department They can also teach in multiple programs We can display the same bio on each site
  • Multiple biosacross sites Faculty each have a home department They can also teach in multiple programs We can display the same bio on each site
  • Reporting
  • ReportingvcSiteIDs Stores the Site ID numbers Display name and Title URL Category, date launched (designed), and designer are available to show history of a site
  • Reportingarchive Captures all the information for that day, one record per asset Includes content Does not include custom metadata We may add a field with an array of all custom metadata Used for reporting over time
  • Daily ReportFirst report developedEmailed every morningRecap what was published fromthe CMS the previous day Pages only Grouped by site Added icons to distinguish between announcements and pages Added search results from other sources
  • highcharts.com for dynamic charts
  • Vassar College Web Development http://webdesign.vassar.edu @vassarwebdesign Megg Brown http://about.me/meggbrown @stomer
  • Vassar sites