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Learning to C.O.P.E. at XU

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Learning to C.O.P.E. at XU

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In 2015 Xavier University rolled out a search-based homepage. After providing such a dynamic homepage, the content strategy was lacking. We started utilizing a blog tool to push fresh content out to our audience but still had a semi-static web presence. We'll discuss the tools we used to build out our CDN and the challenges we faced.

In 2015 Xavier University rolled out a search-based homepage. After providing such a dynamic homepage, the content strategy was lacking. We started utilizing a blog tool to push fresh content out to our audience but still had a semi-static web presence. We'll discuss the tools we used to build out our CDN and the challenges we faced.

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Learning to C.O.P.E. at XU

  1. 1. #DPA9 Learning to C.O.P.E. AT XU
  2. 2. Hi, I’m Greg. Web Developer @XavierUniv @mcmullen_greg
  3. 3. WHAT WE’LL COVER What we broke How we “fixed” it Challenges 1 2 3
  4. 4. WHAT WE’LL COVER Results What’s next? 4 5
  5. 5. What we broke 1 and why…
  6. 6. We deliberately removed the CMS from main pages
  7. 7. We wanted complete control
  8. 8. Pages became too static Photo: Static by M M / Creative Commons
  9. 9. How we “fixed” it 2
  10. 10. Hooray for student workers!
  11. 11. Hooray for student workers! j.k. (sort of)
  12. 12. • global includes • local includes • widgets
  13. 13. • global includes • local includes • widgets …progress…
  14. 14. So…about that static content? Photo: STOP! by Kevin Dooley / Creative Commons
  15. 15. #DPA9
  16. 16. #DPA9 yep…that happened
  17. 17. We customized the blog and dubbed it CDN.
  18. 18. ESPN and NYT Provided Inspiration
  19. 19. We’re already writing stories. How can we repurpose them? Photo: Writing Forever by Nilufer Gadgieva / Creative Commons
  20. 20. <cfset CDN_tags="tag-name"> <cfinclude template="/PATH/TO/cdn-display.cfm">
  21. 21. <cfset CDN_count="3"> <cfset CDN_tags="topic-academics"> <cfset CDN_showLinks="true"> <cfset CDN_slider="true"> <cfset CDN_color="white|blue|navy"> <cfset CDN_secondaryTags="audience-undergraduate">
  22. 22. grad-education-sport-admin undergrad-biology
  23. 23. display-homepage
  24. 24. slack integration
  25. 25. Challenges 3
  26. 26. #DPA9
  27. 27. Writing styles had to evolve
  28. 28. sharing preview URLS
  29. 29. tracking
  30. 30. content hijacking Photo: Newspapers by Allan Foster / Creative Commons
  31. 31. caching slowed rolling out content
  32. 32. Results 4
  33. 33. we started crowd sourcing more content Crowd sourcing FTW!
  34. 34. articles get solid traffic Sept 1 - Oct 11
  35. 35. stories are being repurposed
  36. 36. pages get fresh content more frequently
  37. 37. What’s next? 5
  38. 38. constant and never ending improvement
  39. 39. That’s All Folks #DPA9 be sure to rate this session @mcmullen_greg
  40. 40. Photo Credits All photos, unless noted otherwise are credit to Xavier University photographers Greg Rust or Cliff Jenkins.

Editor's Notes

  • Today we’ll be talking about how Xavier University Learned to COPE, or Create once. Publish everywhere. While moving through our web-development cycle.
  • I’m Greg McMullen, an alumnus, current graduate student and web developer for Xavier University.

    I guess you can say I drank the Xavier Kool-Aid.
  • We’re going to go through our issues, how we resolved them and then I’ll recap the challenges and some of the results we’ve been able to capture through using our new COPE strategy.
  • We’re going to go through our issues, how we resolved them and then I’ll recap the challenges and some of the results we’ve been able to capture through using our new COPE strategy.
  • The first thing we did within the new template was remove our CMS (Campus Suite) from main pages.

    Some of you are probably thinking “what? why?” Don’t you want your content to be easily accessible to editors. Well, yes, but…
  • If you happened to attend Rob Liesland’s session yesterday, he touched on how we stopped delegating and took back control, but that’s what we wanted.

    We didn’t want our main content pages to be editable by just anyone. Content changes feed through Web Services. We still work with content editors, but instead of relying on writers to fill the boxes in the CMS; we filled it for them in the code. Ensuring continuity across the entire site.

    However…
  • With our desire for control and our CMS being too inefficient to handle the new, more complex layouts, pages became static and updates became a bit more time intensive.
  • So what did we do?
  • First — We abused our student workers.
  • Okay. We’re not that mean, but we did utilize them to find repeated elements and drop in our the includes we were about to generate.
  • So, what we really started with was creating three different buckets. Global or Local and Widgets.

    Anything that could be used anywhere became a global include; anything that could be used in a small portion of the site. For example, our Life at Xavier section, became a more localized include.

    And things we wanted to use in our CMS was turned into a widget.
  • The best part of all of these items are that they could easily be transitioned from one to the other.

    So we’re making progress in our goal to COPE.
  • After we took the time to setup the basic technical includes, we began to expand our talks around story telling.

    By “we” I mean our writing staff. The initial solution was to…
  • Start a blog.
  • The blog started off as a small piece of the website, allowing our Social Media personnel to share stories. But we quickly outgrew the setup.

    Conversations started to evolve and the idea of a content delivery system, of sorts, got batted around.
  • Technically speaking, we copied the blog functionality included in our CMS and renamed it. From an internal point of view, this changed the perception of what we were doing.

    It functions like any other page on our website or blogging systems, but without some custom work it wouldn’t have included features like featured images or videos; galleries or oEmbeds for including social posts.
  • The front end was inspired by the featured stories on ESPN and New York Times.

    Our goal was to provide a custom “landing area” for Social Shares/E-mail news letters, et cetera.
  • After the technical backend launched, our writers were tasked with writing program specific stories;

    While they were writing and researching, we (the developers) were tying to figure out how our CDN would flow into other pages around the site.
  • This is the most basic model for including stories into other pages.
  • These are the other variables we can assign to the CDN content pull. We choose the number of articles (default is 3) a tag, if we want to show “read more” links if it’s a slider or not predefined list of colors based on our CSS and secondary tags.

    The secondary tags gives us freedom to find that secondary content for a page that might qualify as having multiple categories. It also uses a different type of query instead of using a SQL ‘or’.
  • Tags are the driving force of our CDN. Without them, we we wouldn’t be able to push content out.
  • As you can see, we use the undergrad-biology tag for the biology page.

    It’s a rather simple pattern and it continues elsewhere on the site for other programs.
  • For our homepage, we use the display-homepage as a tag.

    This allows us to keep complete control of the content.

    We have one person designated as “homepage monitor” to ensure the stories are current, fresh and tell the best story.
  • We’ve also setup a webhook from Slack to monitor when posts are moved to the “live” status. It gives us an opportunity to review tags and do a simple check that everything’s working the way it should.
  • Using the blog terminology created a challenge because our writers saw it as a waste of time.

    Simply changing the name flipped the script because they saw value in it. Changing the name also helped us sell the process.
  • Our writers are more familiar with Magazines/Editorials/print material Transitioning their writing style to the web presented a unique challenge for the staff.

    Before writing, the end destination was determined first. That allowed stories to be tailored for the higher priority audiences.
  • Since tags are the driving force, proper tagging has been a unique challenge.

    Training, tag suggestions and the editorial process have helped improve tagging consistency.
  • We had a few internal community publications go out using a preview URL.

    We had to explain the difference between the public/private URLS and added a nice warning message.
  • We’re using Google Analytics, of course, to track our overall web presence. But we wanted a quick view of how articles were doing.

    Views work tremendously well, but impressions were a problem.

    For some reason anything displayed on the homepage got an impression update every time the page loaded, instead of when the item was actually in the viewport.

    Most views: 16,513
    Most Impressions: 197,530 (Today show makeover) & 193,761
  • Departments tried to hijack the CDN area for their own content.

    But, it didn’t meet our standard, and it was more focused on current students than prospective.
  • Our biggest challenge came at launch. Just a few days before the NCAA Tournament, we got this bright idea of tossing out a new feature at a peak time for traffic.

    This caused some short outages and we had to look into using longer server-side caching. By caching the content, we were able to lessen the load on our Database as it tried to find the article data.
  • We live in a “want it now” kind of world and work in a fast paced environment. So while we remedied the server load issues, we created a “you have to wait” environment.

    Most of the pages we’ve rolled content to don’t need instantaneous updates and we also have a manual override process should things need to move faster.
  • Overall, our initial goal was met. We started generating targeted content to our highest priority audience and distributing it to our static program pages.
  • Some of these features, specifically the oEmbed, helped our writers crowd source content too. They don’t have to fumble with code, they can just write and copy/paste in a URL to a tweet, Facebook or Instagram post.

    We feel as though it’s helped us be able to connect by showing authentic experiences.
  • We get great traffic across to the articles. Mainly from more direct sources like social media, but we have been seeing click through traffic from program specific pages.

    To note: we recently updated our GTM events to get better data from our program pages.
  • Content from the CDN is being repurposed for our magazines — Magazine articles are being repurposed for web. It’s created a nice cohesive approach to content generation.
  • Pages stopped being stale and we’re able to provide new reading material to prospectives and crawlers.
  • We’re definitely not done. We’re on probably the fifth iteration and we’ll continue moving forward.
  • Here, you can see the initial “blog” version and the existing version.

    After the blog flopped, our focus went to the individual articles instead of trying to layout a typical “blog-type” format.
  • We’ll be continuing to implement this across more pages and our writers will keep generating stories for our audiences.

    We’re still working on stories for Graduate Programs and are planning to start writing content specific for our Life at Xavier-type pages focusing on a student’s on campus experience.
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