Introduce self: web manager, responsible for the day-to-day running of the BIS corporate website. Heavily involved in the new website project from requirements gathering through procurement, development and UAT to launch.
Some high-level drivers for the project to replace our CMS and web hosting arrangements. The existing contract was due to expire in March 2010 and if we did not have anything else in place by then we would have incurred very substantial costs to extend the contract (which was jointly with UKTI). Procurement process had already stalled once. so time was of the essence, and we needed to be very sure that the supplier we chose was capable of delivering to a very aggressive deadline.
The old BERR website was reaching the end of its useful life. Despite an overhaul September 2008, it looked dated and functionality and flexibility were limited. Devolved web editors found the CMS difficult to use. New site needed to be kept fresh with lots of news. Site needed to do more to tell visitors what the Department is all about, and enable greater interaction.
In June 2009 we were Mogged. Suddenly we had two websites; then three, once we had set up an interim BIS site. We had been planning – in the interests of saving time – to keep the basic design of the old site. But the changes gave us an opportunity to push through a more ambitious design to go with the new department.
Homepage was text-heavy; changing the banner was a complicated process; little room for changing layout. Overall effect: static and stodgy. General content pages were similarly inflexible.
New homepage much more dynamic and does a good job of telling the world what BIS is about. Carousel stories updated daily; secondary features weekly. Complete control over panels in right-hand column.
One sentence on my background: 20 years + in IT, mostly as software consultant in large financial institutions and government departments. Specialised in delivering solutions with .NET since it appeared.
Who we are. I work in team of Sitecore and .NET specialists, delivering to mostly, but not exclusively, in the public sector. We also have our own data centre where we host the solution.
Why do we specialise in delivering Sitecore-based solutions? We know that Sitecore can meet BIS’ needs in terms of delivering on functionality in a robust and scalable solution. As developers key feature is extensibility. We will see some of the areas where we have done this during this presentation. Sitecore provide support, and also there is an active blogging community world-wide. Sitecore is not static and is increasingly becoming a vehicle for web marketers, which we think for our customers is where they want to be. For us, it is the ideal platform.
What I intend to do is take you through the site and highlight where we have used and extended sitecore to meet BIS expectations.
First I would like to highlight the key requirement of supporting both BIS and their partner organisations. John will describe the details later, but from our development perspective, a key requirement was to support the group of bodies collectively called BIS partners. Bodies like the Export Credit Guarantee Department and the British Hallmarking Council. Each requires a distinctive web presence. BUT INTERNALLY IT IS ONE SET OF CONTENT BEING SERVED IN ONE INFRASTRUCTURE. This meant making use of Sitecore’s multi-site capabilities , where we can configure a single web site to support what is effectively multiple sites.
Take a quick look at the site: the BIS home page. Overall main structure: Top navigation tabs: Carousel with up to three items Up to three secondary stories In fact, not shown, can have third set across the page underneath. Not used here. Bottom links lists To the right are set of panels. More on these later.
Initial impact is from the three-pane carousel Three top stories: each text and image
Automatically changes at a period set by the content editors
And the next one
Same essential structure for BIS partners, different content and look. Home page of BIS partner: British Hallmarking Council
Export Credits Guarantee Department.
Her we have CST, Relatively smaller sub-site. Top navigation tabs: here have relatively few tabs Carousel : CST have decided to have one entry at the moment, so our display code removes the selection tabs at the bottom, to give a nice clean simple display
Again using the sitecore multi-site capability , the search results are all partner specific. Partner has own search results page showing just their content . Very much a distinctive web presence. Technology used is load-balanced Google mini search boxes.
Here we see part of the main BIS page. Data is taken from data items, stored in a hierarchical tree, and displayed in a any way that we want.
This allows BIS to maintain a list of policy data. But how to list them?
On this landing page: alphabetically.
Here by theme, where BIS can maintain a list of themes and allocate them to each policy.
And here by how recently the policy details have been updated. This is basic stuff, but it is a fundamental part of why a CMS-based solution is effective.
Next, like to show you the News page. BIS asked us to make use of the NDS rss news feed for the department. Sitecore includes some tasks that run periodically behind the scenes. Sitecore makes this functionality available to us to run our code similarly. Periodically, we check for new items and bring them automatically into BIS’ content area. These are then displayed on this page. NOU JUST RSS FEED, HAS BEEN IMPORTED AND CAN BE HIDDEN BY CONTENT EDITORS ETC Sitecore itself allows its contents to be exposed as an rss feed. In the panel on the right you can see links which they have set up for people to view parts of the site in an rss listing format, including News.
Another nice example of basic CMS usage. Here we have a minister page. The Headlnes tab is looking at the news items picked up from NDS, and listing those that are associated with the specific minister.
Similarly, there is a speeches listing page, but here on the minister page the speeches tab lists those speeches that have been tagged as being made by the specific minister.
Finally Panel on right is configured to pick up the latest news items, and the latest speeches and show them on the home page.
Going to discuss the publishing process. Just to make sure we are clear on terminology... Sitecore maintains two separate databases : one to hold work in progress and one for live ‘published’ content. Content authors make changes to the work in progress database, can view this. Visitors access the live web site, stored in a separate database Publishing is therefore the process of moving content between the two databases.
Images are maintained in Sitecore’s media library A page display combines content and images from several items. To avoid the content editor having to navigate to multiple items and publish each .. Sitecore allows us to plug into the publishing process . When the main data item is published, we have used the sitecore API to identify and publish related content, like images, automatically. Avoids errors when people forget. Saves time. Increases quality of the process. Achieves BIS goal of ease of use.
A key challenge is to keep the content up-to-date. To assist BIS in doing this, the solution allows them to maintain a list of content owners. Each page must be given a content owner, by selecting from a drop down list. Each page is also given a Review Date, which defaults to 6 months from creation and cannot be set to more than a year. Sitecore allows for processes to be run periodically and we use this functionality to check for content which has reached its review date and automatically send reminders to the content owners, copied to a central team e-mail address. Reports can be run to identify expired content. We again make use of the multi-site capability of sitecore to make this functionality available to BIS and partners separately: they maintain their own list of content owners, the appropriate list is identified to show to editors in their drop-down list and they can set their own central team e-mail to be copied. So the sitecore multi-site functionality is used to provide internal independence for BIS partners, as well as providing their external separate web presence. This allows BIS and its partners to stay on top of keeping their site current.
An example of what the visitor might see
Another sitecore feature which BIS find useful is the ability to set a date and time range for items to be published. You can set an item to be published at some time in the future and set when it should be removed. BIS wanted to be able publish announcements or news items at midnight, or perhaps at 6 a.m. However, this functionality does require that someone published the item, in order for the date restrictions to be checked and acted on. It doesn’t happen automatically. We implemented overnight processing to automatically publish content, so that these date restrictions would be checked and content either become available or be removed automatically.
BIS have a presence on Twitter and we developed a panel for them which can be pointed at a twitter account and display a set number of tweets and provide links to the account and to twitter generally. On this page, the British Hallmarking council have used it to point to their relatively new twitter account.
BIS keen to deliver engaging content. Here is our implementation of their requirement to have a panel which can identify YouTube videos to show. The panel on the right has been set up centrally and then this page configured to automatically display it. They also configure the additional links displayed.
Directly below on same page is another example of a custom panel made available to BIS and partners : Flickr panel. BIS have a presence on the photo sharing site Flickr and using this panel they can render images from there and add links to allow visitors to explore further.
Quickly show a simple example of the use of WFFM. This allows content editors to create simple forms . Here Foresight editors have developed a simple contact us form incorporated into a general page. The captured data is recorded in a database and can be reviewed, but more immediately the full details are emailed to a specified email address. Content editors can create pages like this with no involvement from us at Eduserv. Partners manage this functionality independently.
Another recent BIS requirement was to have more control of the look and feel of their general pages. We delivered a solution where they could upload their own style sheet and images and get them included on selected pages. This will let them create areas within the site with a slightly distinctive look and feel.
News stories pulled in by RSS from NDS. Speeches tagged by minister, displayed on biog page. News stories parsed for mentions on ministers, also displayed on biog page. Plans for custom CSS following launch of news room. Next up, a section of the site to host our re-usable data sets. Web editors like the Windows-style functionality of CMS. Creating navigation and changing structure especially are much easier now.
Possibility of savings across government web estate by setting up a handful of shared service hubs. BIS well positioned for this. [CHECK THAT THIS CAN BE MENTIONED]