University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Several of us are currently migrating sites from various CMS's to WordPress. Let's use this discussion thread to share our tips and experiences with WordPress at the departmental and institutional level. (Thanks to Hillary and Steve for kicking off this discussion!)

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We moved the main public website for Erikson Institute over to WordPress at the beginning of the year. We're thrilled with the change and love the affordability and flexibility of WP compared to the boutique, proprietary CMS we were on before.

The migration was pretty intense, though. Even though the design of our site didn't change with the CMS, the logic of our old platform was so different than WP that I just hired student workers to copy and paste every page of the site. It was a huge process, but actually ended up being more affordable and I think was higher quality than if we'd simply exported SQL and tried to do it that way.

We also created a mu-plugin to redirect the thousands of old URLs from the previous platform.

I actually just gave a talk at WordCamp Chicago about launching the new site. My slides are here, if that's of any interest: http://www.jgordonwright.com/wordpress-goes-to-college-a-case-study/

Great slides, Gordon! I'm working out what we think may be our custom post types and taxonomy. Since I could only read your slides, what was your presentation on curation of content like? How did you curate program pages and guides, research grants, etc.?

From a technical standpoint, we really used that Zone Manager plugin to curate a lot of that. One example is the slider on our homepage. The plugin provides an easy UI for picking any page or post on the site as an item in the slider, and then simply dragging-and-dropping to choose the order of those items.

For linking our programs, courses, faculty, and research, we used the post-to-post plugin. By doing this we can have all the courses for a particular program show up, for instance. Or all the research for a particular faculty member show up on their page.

All I really mean by curation is that we ended up having fewer areas of the site that simply list things chronologically or alphabetically than I had initially expected. It turned out that any somewhat important webpage required us to be really thoughtful about what appeared and in what order. 

Hope that helps!

Definitely. Thanks! What sort of feedback did you get from departments and other content managers who felt deep ownership of their content (that might or might not have been cut from the final)?

Aha, here's where the small size of Erikson has been a huge boon. We really don't have too many content managers out there, and we've managed to centralize a lot of that. So for us the problem isn't control over the content, it's capacity for keeping it up to date.

I see a positive trend here... Migration from proprietary and expensive 'big iron' CMS systems to open source alternatives is beginning to gather traction in the higher education sector.

I'm a big fan of moving to open source software wherever it is feasible. In the CMS realm we have three very good projects that are good candidates for consideration: WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. I'll keep focusing my comments in this thread on WordPress, but it would be interesting to see if others want to open similar threads for Drupal and (possibly) Joomla.

Our choice of WordPress for Brescia University College is based on a number of factors: ease of use and familiarity for contributors and editors, a large community of developers, a wide range of useful and functional plug-ins, clean upgrade paths between major versions, and a relatively low dependency on coding to carry out common customizations.

We've been using WordPress for a few years for blogs and news.  We are now starting to use it as a website content management system for some small marketing sites and some of our smaller campus sites, e.g  Curtin Singapore and Curtin Sydney

The rest of the Curtin site is in OpenText CMS or our in-house ColdFusion framework. We're just starting a CMS review project so WordPress will be one of the solutions that will be reviewed as a possible replacement for OpenText and our ColdFusion framework.

It would be great to have a list of universities that are using WordPress as a CMS (rather than just for blogging). Does such a list already exist or is that something we can start here?

This is a good start: http://www.wpbeginner.com/showcase/17-popular-universities-that-are.... Also, we are using WP for our sites but we're still migrating - Georgia State University: http://www.gsu.edu.

There's a open Google spreadsheet for higher ed sites using Wordpress: http://bit.ly/12nblfc

There's also a mailing list for wordpress and higher ed: http://lists.automattic.com/mailman/listinfo/wp-edu and a new site/community: http://wphighed.org

Cara, your links have been extremely useful. We're seriously considering migrating to Wordpress over the summer. We've used TYPO3 since 2009, which is another open-source CMS. I appreciate all the comments posted so far, but I wonder what people's experience is like after using Wordpress for a year or two? Do you still feel you've made the right choice?

Hi Julie,

My experience has been very positive. We are now running several WordPress multisites, and if I could encapsulate the results it would be:

  • Much improved editing experience for departmental users compared to other CMS.
  • Much reduced training time for new staff.
  • Much reduced support time for the web developer.
  • We use managed hosting (wpcloud.ca) and are not running into any performance issues, and have excellent support from them.
  • Development of new plugins and themes is less expensive that competing technologies. (As a rough rule of thumb, costs tend to be 30% less that Drupal for the same functionality.)

I'll be glad to fill in details and discuss if anyone has questions, and would love to hear other's experience with migrating to WordPress as an institutional CMS.

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