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University Web Developers

Any CourseLeaf, Acalog or SmartCatalog users out there?

We put out an RFI for a catalog management solution and recently sat through short demos about these three products. Looking to chat with schools how are using or used any of these products and get some general impressions.

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We use Acalog at GVSU, but I am not that directly involved. If you wanted to run questions by someone I could probably dig up a contact for you.

Thanks, Ben. Thank would help me out a lot...

Personally, my impression of those three (I've demoed them all previously as well) is that they were solutions built by programmers. Meaning, tons of features without a lot of regard for how they actually need to be used by the people that use them. If memory serves, CourseLeaf stood out as the best of the three, mainly for their PDF conversion abilities.

<vendor>
That said, that's why we worked on CatalogM (http://catalogm.allofe.com/catalogm/home). We built it from the ground up to meet the needs of the registrar at the university I worked at previously. And like our mapping platform, we wanted to make it more than cost competitive with current market alternatives. Our platform was built with university flexibility in mind - dealing with the idea that no two schools build their catalog the same.

If you want to watch the webinar we did on it a while back, it's archived here: http://info.nucloud.com/view-online-catalog-webinar/. Feel free to shoot me any questions if you want.
</vendor> 

Thanks. I'll definitely check CatalogM out. I was actually impressed how far these products have come since we looked five years ago, but none seems the "ideal" fit.

We've dealt with one of these vendors. Our problems are related to our own internal processes, where plan is a four-letter word and lack of accountability means deadlines are missed and life goes on.

Moral of the story: you need to have a handle on your own processes to make any product work for you. If your process is broken, no product will fix it for you.

Good point - even the best tool is worthless if you aren't setup internally to use it properly.

That said, we're wrapping up an installation with one of these vendors and, as Michael said, it definitely looks like it was designed by programmers. I can't even figure out how to work the darn thing. I wish I had been involved in the selection process. (What is it with "enterprise" software companies forgetting to hire interface designers?)

Tatjana, make sure you can take it for a real test drive with the people who will actually be using it. A demo likely won't reveal usability issues.

I agree, internal processes are critical. We have been using a homegrown online catalog CMS for about ten years, so we've worked through a lot of the workflow kinks and have a good idea of what we are looking for to fit with our environment and resources. We're also lucky that we have a good cross section of people involved in the selection process and we're trying to be very thorough. I just recently have been dealing with another hosted "web solution" by a "big name" company that was chosen by a senior administrator (it's what they used at his old school...), and it has been a nightmare, definitely designed for programmers of which none are involved on our side... Even the public facing end has some serious usability issues. :(

Anyhow... It was actually the catalog demos that brought me here to seek out concrete experiences with specific products. During the demo one product looked super techie and not very user-friendly for those entering information. Another seemed geared to developing very structured data, that has a definite appeal for re-purposing  data throughout our institutional site, however, I am concerned that it might be too difficult to implement given the current diversity and complexity of the current catalog content. I'd like to know some first hand of pluses and minuses of these tools in action.

If anyone is willing to share some details of their experiences, please contact me directly.

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