New system for creating, managing Web sites launched
Computer Services has just launched a new system for building and maintaining Web sites that makes setting up a site at Temple faster — and keeping it current almost as easy as browsing the Web.
Over the winter break, a team under the leadership of Computer Services Assistant Director Karl Horvath rolled out a project they’d been working on behind the scenes for months: the Temple Web complex.
The complex, also known as a Web content management system, consists of two main Microsoft Windows servers: one for development, and another for production. The development server mirrors the Temple University site and allows webmasters and others to view a page or site as it will look online, before it’s published. The page or pages become “live” for the world only when they are moved to the production server.
The new development environment allows for a better review process before pages go public.
Though that’s just part of what’s changed behind the scenes, more immediately noticeable is how the new system makes it easy to create and update sites.
“We want the power of the Web to be as easy to use and as familiar as the television or the telephone,” Horvath said. “We’re aiming for maximum ‘usability’ and ‘accessibility,’ while providing powerful tools and environments for the techies too.”
Creating a Web site
Every new site that Computer Services sets up now comes with default Web pages and templates. Temple is close to awarding a contract to a design firm to help redesign Temple’s Web site; once the new design is approved, the templates will be updated to reflect a standardized Universitywide look. (In the meantime, a new, interim design of just the home page, www.temple.edu, incorporating the University’s new graphic identity system will be launched within the next four to six weeks.)
The new web site development environment can be used with either Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 or FrontPage 2000 (or a later version), and any secure file transfer or secure shell software. Through a new agreement with Macromedia, people purchasing Dreamweaver through Temple’s Computer Business Services will receive a discounted educational price for their software (see box for details and ordering information).
“Web development is not limited to a workstation in an office; now webmasters can access their Web sites anywhere in the world using the development server,” Horvath explained. “The new system offers a complete work flow process that allows for approvals, record of changes and rollbacks.”
Web site management
Keeping sites up-to-date is now as easy as using a Web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape. Thanks to a new content management system using Macromedia Contribute 3 software, webmasters can set up “content contributor” accounts allowing authorized staff members to make changes to pages in their sites. “Content contributor” accounts can be set up to allow changes to only specific pages, specific regions within pages, or even specific types of changes, such as text only and predefined styles.
Using the content management system requires the purchase of either Contribute 3 or Contribute Publishing Services software. Seminars will be available later this spring semester to introduce webmasters and content contributors to the new system and Contribute software.
“The Web complex will change the way people communicate at Temple,” said Associate Vice President for Computer Services Sheri Stahler. “Departments historically used print media to reach prospective students and inform current students and faculty. With a content management Web site, anyone can quickly and easily update a Web page. No technical expertise required.”
New Web tools are constantly being developed to make managing and publishing sites easier. The new system integrates Temple’s File Transfer Utility to directly publish their pages from the development server to the production server. The system also includes tools for checking Web site stats and broken links, as well as a site’s accessibility and usability.
A Google search bar has always been available for searching within specific sites, but now every new site automatically comes with customized search bar code that webmasters can insert into their sites, rather than having to request the code separately from Computer Services.
A manual failover server has been added to provide backup for the development and production servers. This will ensure that content on both servers is protected and the system does not go offline unexpectedly.
The new system eliminates the University’s need for multiple standalone Web servers. Though individual sites will not be affected, most of Computer Service’s servers will be consolidated into this new system. Users on legacy systems will get a call from Computer Services this spring to help guide them through the process.
Temple’s new Web complex, also known as a Web content management system, consists of two main Microsoft Windows servers: one for development (“develop”), and another for production (“publish”). Temple’s File Transfer Utility (FTU) will enable webmasters to move their pages from development to production, where they go live on the Internet. A third, manual failover server provides backup for both.
Planning for the future
Already, Horvath’s team is working on improvements and additions to the new content system. Future planned upgrades include moving to a Linux Red Hat server farm to provide a wider range of Web technologies and utilities, including Apache Web server and multiple Web protocols. Also, automatic failovers will make the backup system automatic, further protecting sites from being lost or experiencing down time.
Soon, the system will support full LDAP authentication, meaning webmaster and content contributor accounts will be tied in more fully with Temple AccessNet usernames and passwords. Also, an SQL database server for departments will allow webmasters to use PHP and JSP scripting languages to process and collect data from Web forms, rather than having form data sent to a designated e-mail account.
“This was an intensive project that took months of planning and required a tight implementation schedule,” Horvath stressed. “Many Computer Services staff members and Temple webmasters collaborated with the core team to make it happen.”
The core team included Viral Mehta, information systems development specialist, and Scott Birl, senior systems administrator. Mehta was responsible for the content management system and Web utilities, working closely with Macromedia to customize the software specifically for Temple’s environment. Birl was responsible for transitioning the old system to the new one. He manages the Web servers and back end systems, and keeps track of webmasters, Web sites and failover systems.
“We’re proud to provide the cutting-edge tools and resources that help set Temple apart from other institutions,” said Vice President of Computer and Information Services Timothy O’Rourke. “The new Web complex is yet another example of how Temple leads the way in using technology to support student, faculty and staff needs.”
- By Betsy Winter
For more information:
To learn more about the new Web complex, visit www.temple.edu/webhelp, or attend one of Computer Services’ upcoming seminars explaining the new Web content system:
Feb. 22: Health Sciences Center
Feb. 23: Ambler Campus
Feb. 24: Main Campus
Details will be posted at www.temple.edu/webhelp/other_web/news.htm.
To buy Macromedia Dreamweaver or Contribute software, go to Computer Business Services’ Software Site Licensing page at www.temple.edu/cs/business/sslp/ssl.htm.
Software costs, per single license:
Contribute 3.0: $43.19
Web Publishing System (includes server seat, Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2): $47.29
Upgrade from Contribute to WPS: $43.79
Studio MX 2004 w/ Flash Pro: $130.09
Studio MX: $104.29
Dreamweaver MX: $51.79
Director MX: $240.09