As the Web Project progresses well into the build phase I thought this would be a good opportunity to check back over one of the biggest decisions made in the process so far; our choice of Content Management System (CMS).
The consideration to change CMS came following a technical workshop undertaken as part of the research phase run by Deeson, the digital agency who are working with us to help us deliver the website. Throughout the tender process Deeson showed confidence in challenging our thoughts and preconceptions. It was for this reason that we chose them as the agency to work on the project, and it proved worthwhile when they emerged from the technical workshop with the suggestion of reviewing our CMS.
The aim of the technical session that they ran was to assess the technology and systems we currently use for the website. Being the platform our website runs on, our CMS, TerminalFour (T4) was at the centre of their focus.
After digesting all of the information that was thrown at them, and after spending a day locked away in a room in South Tower, Deeson came back to us with a number of risks and concerns. These concluded with a number of recommendations, one of which was that we consider switching our CMS provider.
The three key concerns that were raised around continuing to use T4 were the way our site was set up/built, the customer service support offered and the platform’s functionality and stability. The build of the website is down to us; however, the customer service support and functionality are something T4 are responsible for.
Here is how they have been addressed:
T4 have recently drastically increased the size of their client support team. This coupled with a new approach to account management from them has seen a vast improvement in customer service and subsequently our working relationship. Issues and queries are both resolved far quicker. We’ve also been working with them to develop and test new functionality.
The current university website runs on T4 version 7.4. This version has been superseded and is now a legacy system; the user interface is outdated and bugs/quirks are no longer addressed. It has however been replaced by a new shiny version 8.
Some of you may have had a glance at version 8 in a webinar ran last year (if you missed it you can find the recording on YouTube). The main difference for you is a new and improved user interface.
Key areas of the product have been reworked for example; an improved direct edit feature for easier editing, analytics integration and workflows for content governance.
T4 have also changed the way they operate to work in short sprint cycles. A platform of this scope will be constantly evolving and it will have bugs. But for us their change of approach means more regular product updates, quicker bug fixes and a more stable platform.
Site set up
We have been testing T4 version 8 for a while to fully explore the platform. The most favourable approach would be to rebuild our website in a fresh blank installation. Starting with a clean slate is a much bigger job, however it will give us the benefits of:
- negating any issues from upgrading
- setting up the product how we’d like it
- restructuring the site both externally on the site and internally with T4 based on the extensive research Rob has previously mentioned.
To sum up…
We’re happy that the concerns identified have been addressed. We’ve made the decision to rebuild the website in T4 version 8, a decision that has been ratified by the Web Project Advisory Board.
As a piece of software T4 provides us with a solid base for managing content. But how that takes its form on the public facing website…well that’s down to us. It’s how we build on top of it to develop the functionality we want for an amazing website and T4 gives us the platform to do this.
The crux of it is that a CMS is only one part of what makes a website tick. You can have the best CMS in the world, but it needs to be set up properly, governed consistently and users trained to an appropriate level otherwise it will fall apart.
This will be taken into account during the project, with a fully revamped training programme and a new content governance model. Details of this will be circulated in the coming weeks, watch this space…