By Dan Jackson, on 5 July 2013
Being somewhat shamefaced that we haven’t blogged for 15 months, it’s tempting to start with a list of excuses for the pregnant pause (big organisational changes, workload – the usual suspects.) However, instead of being introspective & retrospective, this post is about looking forward to where we want to be – and we’re certainly doing a lot to get there; constructing a digital strategy and the governance framework that needs to go with it; thinking about how to position our Web and Mobile Services team as a ‘Digital Agency for UCL’; working with Mark Boulton Design on a common Design Language that will enable us to develop visually consistent, responsive websites for the University; undertaking a rigorous process of service improvement.
Our CMS review process
Another critical activity that’s well underway is a review of our Content Management System (CMS). We know that the performance and scalability of our existing CMS is a concern, and that we’ve got work to do in order to get it up-to-date and make the underlying server and application stack more performant and resilient. From a recent survey of our CMS users, we also know that the content editing process is often a frustrating one; performance issues and poor usability are frequent causes for complaint.
More strategically, however, we’ve also been thinking about what functional and non-functional capabilities we want from a CMS, and how to enable ourselves to be future friendly; after all, it’s impossible to establish whether our current CMS is fit for purpose until we we know what we want it to do – both now, and in the future.
CMS planning workshop
To assist us in this process of CMS analysis, and to help validate our decisions, we’re working with the digital consultants and CMS experts from J.Boye. Over the summer we’ll be eliciting the opinions of a representative pool of UCL’s content editors, but we kicked off our investigations this week with a workshop for senior stakeholders from Information Services and Communications & Marketing to review CMS best practices and trends, and to define and prioritise our digital / CMS activities with some MoSCow analysis.
So what did we conclude?At the top of our prioritised list of “must haves” was a mix of activities that must happen in order to support our process of change and improvement, and a set of features that our CMS must offer as core capabilities:
- Digital Strategy & Governance (inc. senior management understanding of importance, central web funding)
- UX (optimal UX for all user groups, intuitive CMS editing interface)
- Mobile (responsive design, mobile first)
- Performance (inc. need to define performance budget & establish fit-for-purpose server architecture)
- Content & Metadata (structured for re-use, social/CMS integration)
- Compliance with corporate branding
- Actionable measurability
- CMS flexibility & extensibility
- System / data integration & interoperability
Meanwhile, our “should haves” and “could haves” listed those items that we felt we should strive for, but that either may not be possible in the short term, or were not perceived to be core capabilities for a CMS:
- One UCL website with a global IA
- Standardisation of design & development processes / assets
- Focus on search
- Maturity of CMS vendor
- Controlled flexibility (controlled by Web & Mobile Services, flexible for editors)
- Capable of being UCL’s single CMS
- Skilled, professional content editors (federated model)
- Integrated, central DAM (digital asset management) system
- Simple, usable, integrated authentication
- CMS technology appropriate to UCL
- Scalable solution
- URL namespace defined
- Content review capability
It was a good, well facilitated session (thanks Brian), and was really encouraging to see Directors & Heads working together to ponder on our CMS requirements and to deliberate on, and help prioritise, those tasks and issues at the heart of our web service improvement plans. We’ll be using this information to inform our Digital Strategy and CMS decision-making processes – watch this space.