Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
A website to help prospective students plan their futures, built upon the Common Web Platform (CWP)
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) is a Tertiary Education provider to the Top of the South region. NMIT offers almost 100 programmes at the certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate level across campuses in Nelson, Blenheim and Richmond as well as through flexible delivery. To ensure a sustainable future, NMIT is focused on creating tomorrow’s new model for learning. It is therefore critical that the website is future proofed to provide a portal for the organisation’s evolving e-business environment.
To migrate the nmit.ac.nz website from a previous proprietary Content Management System (CMS) lacking commercial support to the SilverStripe CMS, the open source software that underpins the New Zealand Government Common Web Platform (CWP). This migration needed to be in time for the release of NMIT’s new Enquiries and Applications Portal, a web interface for NMIT’s Student Management System, ebs4
To deliver a CMS that requires minimal training time, is easy to administer and works well with all other NMIT online technologies
To ensure the website is responsive and scales automatically to suit screen sizes, including iPhones and iPads, as a growing number of visitors to nmit.ac.nz are viewing the site on mobile devices
To give students and all other stakeholders access to more detailed on-screen information, which is content served by the NMIT’s ebs4 Student Management System - this will enhance and facilitate decision-making online, creating an easy transition for prospective students to apply
To utilise existing investment and tools where possible and build NMIT specific requirements on top, thereby investing NMIT’s financial resourses on bespoke rather than standard features of NMIT’s website
To move from an internal hosting environment to a cost effective secure external hosting solution with a high quality Service Level Agreement, supported 24/7
What we did
During four weeks of development, with two developers working full-time, with the aid of an Agile Project Manager at SilverStripe and NMIT Product Owner Kerry Sunderland, SilverStripe redeveloped and migrated the entire nmit.ac.nz website. The new website utilises the SilverStripe CMS with a number of pre-release components in the New Zealand Government Common Web Platform, and is now hosted and supported by SilverStripe 24/7.
We used a HTML-based data migration tool to extract and pull content from the previous website to the new CMS, saving substantial amounts of manual labour during the recreation of several hundred web pages.
CWP comes bundled with existing templates that provide the look and feel of the website, and are already mobile device and printer friendly. These default templates were rebranded to conform with NMIT’s branding. Changing templates is significantly faster and cheaper than creating new ones from scratch.
This allowed for a rapid site migration in time for the launch of the ebs4 Enquiries and Applications Portal, through an iterative development process, and allowed NMIT to benefit from the many out-of-the-box features provided by CWP. This ultimately provided NMIT with a complete site migration very cost efficiently.
We developed a series of pages using RESTful APIs which automatically generate content from the Student Management System ebs4. This enables prospective students of NMIT to view the most up to date course information on the website as its constantly updated in ebs4. We also created failsafe solutions to replace API driven content with CMS editable equivalents when the ebs4 system is not available for any reason.
What users can do now
The new website provides scalable responsive design, allowing users to view the site in a range of screen sizes from mobile to projector resolutions without compromising integrity of the content displayed. The previous NMIT templates had no mobile support and was inflexible, so rather than migrating old templates, the new site uses templates from the Common Web Platform which look more contemporary and support responsive design.
The website contains 90+ pages which are generated by third party application called ebs4. These pages can automatically pull in NMIT programme and courses content from the ebs4 Student Management System, ensuring content is accurate and current up to the hour.
The new website has an administration model to administer student and tutor profiles. By creating a single profile, the content can then be shared across multiple pages on the site, ensures consistency of content, and saves considerable time for content authors who only have to edit content in one place.
NMIT can manage their website effectively using a web-based Content Management System software, SilverStripe CMS. This enables pages to be added, edited, and managed much more efficiently and effectively than in the past.
Phase two of the project will entail an interface redesign and further improvements to the information architecture of the site. NMIT are now supported by a 24/7 external hosting service to ensure their website is always accessible to visitors.
Integrating the NMIT website with the ebs4 Student Management System to generate and display content has many challenges, because it means the website is dependent on a third party application, which might not always be available. In order to provide a failsafe solution, the last known content from ebs4 is shown if the connection to ebs4 goes down.
Building a site on a “work in progress” platform is also challenging, but this opportunity allowed the teams at NMIT to provide valuable feedback which has since been added to improve CWP, with a number of wishlist features added to the backlog for the platform team to potentially add in the future.
The project timeframe of four weeks was also a challenge. Using components in the Common Web Platform provided a number of features out-of-the-box which allowed NMIT to focus more on their business goal deliverables, such as implementing a mobile accessible site with content served by a third party application.
Measures of Success
Over the past 15 years, I have used numerous Content Management Systems and I believe the SilverStripe CMS is easily the best in field. It has a really clever and incredibly easy-to-use interface and will result in administrative time savings of about 60-70 percent. The rapid development of the website was made possible by using Common Web Platform features as a starting point, and building custom templates on top of it. This ensured we met our deadline. The SilverStripe Agile Scrum process and iterative development enabled us to achieve all of our deliverables within the tight timeframe and on budget. And SilverStripe’s development team were extremely competent and a real pleasure to work with.
- 1 June 2013
- Web Development
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