Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from implementing a corporate CMS at the University of Southampton

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from implementing a corporate CMS at the University of Southampton

Southampton have already gone through 2 CMS already! After a University restructuring they decided to pilot a CMS – from Summer 2003 to October 2004. They then went through a tender process for a corporate CMS – wanting to bring in document management – enterprise level CMS – and started implementing in Dec 2004.

This session is really about the issues in implementing the CMS – not about the software.

So – needed to have a clear migration methodology for existing web sites, provide advice to people building websites with the CMS, and sell the benefits to the user – i.e. content creators I guess.

They wanted to avoid being too prescriptive, as they have very wide practice across the university in terms of web design etc.

They run a series of workshops:
1 – Site definition – purpose and scope of site, deliverables, statement of web site goals, target audience list
2 – Content definition – defines the content that will be included – to come out with a first-pass at content structure – this session invariably needs revisiting later
3 – Page design – decide page components and design – to deliver home page and content page elements list and design brief
4 – Site structure and ownership – agree structure, ownership
5 – Content type definition – identify types of content and look at production and maintenance processes – content elements list and outline of workflows

So – at the end of this process they should be ready to hand over the site spec to the owners include user access groups list, security model, content types specification and workflow diagrams.

The presenter has said that this is a lot of work – I can believe it! I can see the value of this approach, but I’m not sure it would translate to our institution. It is clear that implementing a CMS (for Southampton at least) is basically uncovering some fundamental questions about what people are using their web site for.

The CMS has changed the role of the the team – who used to help build websites – which is often about writing code or fixing bugs. Now more in a consultancy role – more a partnership with departments etc.

Very generously Southampton have offered to share the workbooks they use to help people specify their websites:

It is reasonably clear that the workflow is not really CMS related – but that the CMS is a lever for it. However Southampton believe that you cannot run a CMS based site without a proper site defenition.

Now – we are going to divide into groups and try to define a website for this workshop – but each group is going to be looking at different possible audiences.

That was an interesting exercise – although I was a bit tired to fully take part. I need to look at this process a bit more, and think about how a process like this might help at RHUL.

Yet again (sorry) coming back to the question roles. Who should own this process – again I’m not sure that the IT dept is the right place for this site design process to live – once again this sounds like a communication role to me. What happens when we do a print publication? Is there a process here?

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