October 3, 2008
Photo by Colleen MacPherson
With more people then ever turning to the Web as their primary source of information, the U of S is taking a major step toward ensuring it makes a good first impression with information on its site that is accurate, relevant and current.
The university is introducing a web content management system (WCMS) designed to help the hundreds of web publishers across campus not only manage the information on existing websites but also create and maintain new sites. For one of the people involved in the WCMS project, ensuring the system is easy to use was a critical consideration.
"Ease of maintenance is where most of the value is in the system,"said Monisha Shukla, manager of portal services in Information Technology Services (ITS). "With the new software, you don't have to wait for your IT people to find the time to update content on your site or set up a new site. This frees them (IT personnel) to do more value-added things for your unit. They won't be spending their time cutting and pasting."
Shukla said the search for a web management system began last summer when a committee was put together to look at various software packages. That group, led by Ed Pokraka, director of ITS, Colleen Fitzgerald, director of Educational Media Access and Production (EMAP) and Ghislaine McLeod, director of University Communications, included representatives of additional key units —Student and Enrolment Services Division and Facilities Management Division as well as the College of Arts and Science and the Edwards School of Business.
The unanimous decision of the committee was to purchase Cascade software from Hannon Hill at a cost of about $50,000. A number of pilot projects were then set up to test the system and make sure it met the needs of web managers who have diverse skill levels, Shukla said. "When we were evaluating the tool, we looked at not only the technical components but also the communications and functional components. Our whole approach was tied to meeting the needs we saw on campus."
With WCMS, website managers can access graphic design elements that will give university web pages a consistent look, can transfer existing content into the new system and can easily update and maintain content.
The university currently has about 200,000 web pages, many of which are outdated, "which doesn't translate into good web presence," said Shukla. Using WCMS, colleges and units will be able to evaluate their content before moving it into the new system, thereby ensuring information is current and relevant. "This creates an opportunity for people to think strategically about what they want going forward, about what they want their website to do for them."
The system will also help manage what Shukla termed "the life cycle of web pages," from creation to maintenance to retirement.
Shukla said ITS is offering sample WCMS sites, guidelines for using the system, technical and end-user training and account creation at no charge to all campus units. EMAP services include setting up new websites using WCMS or moving existing content into the system.
More information about the new web content management system can be found on the ITS website.