client
The New School
services

Ektron development, CMS Management, technology planning, project management, software development, content migration, quality assurance

dates
March, 2017 - Present
team

Project Manager, Development Lead, Content Lead, developers and content engineers

The New School

The New School, founded in 1919 in New York City, NY is a progressive, non-profit comprehensive university. They are the only university to house a world-renowned design school—Parsons School of Design—alongside a liberal arts college, performing arts college, and legendary graduate programs.



The New School website redesign project is a collaborative effort between internal stakeholders and authors from each of the schools, AREA 17 and Mozaro.  The approach to the project, broadly, follows two tracks: Content Authoring and Design to CMS.   In the Content Authoring phase the content is produced or adopted to fit specific design considerations and is created or curated for relevance. In the Design to CMS phase the teams works in sprints to collaborate and work towards approval along with several hand-offs across all three teams.  The finished result enables authors from The New School to easily manage their content and configure widget features within design standards for their particular school.



Challenges

In the first phase of the project, there were configuration changes made to redirect traffic across multiple servers (multiple versions of the CMS software) and those needed to be deprecated as each individual school went live to reduce performance issues. As the project progressed, there were normal enhancements to Smart Forms but also new functionality created that made use of the already well-defined taxonomy and features of the CMS. Configuring the pages, templates and content associated with each phase were regular challenges for the project.

As we completed the third phase of the project, we also considered several robust challenges to site performance with regards to server configuration, content authors usage and other caching strategies.



Project Goals

The information architecture needed to take the changing needs of the University into consideration, while supporting an expanding audience that interacts with the website by use of mobile devices. Improvement on the content, navigation and user experience were essential. It was necessary for students to have access to a more intuitive path to finding information and be able to easily navigate through all phases of the admissions cycle. Mozaro was commissioned by AREA 17 to lead the development effort of the project and our defined project goals included:

  • Creating technical requirements that aligned with the site schematics and supporting the production of design templates.
  • Integrating HTML designs into the CMS.
  • Migrating existing content from the old design (and CMS) and positioning new content appropriately.
  • Extending the CMS to leverage the universities’ existing investments in CDN/delivery and search.
  • Developing "widgets" that made it easier for authors to produce complex media (galleries, videos, etc.).
  • Conducting multiple, quality reviews, ensuring stakeholders had an opportunity to sign-off on departmental content.
  • Recommending tactics to improve site performance and delivery/web hosting.



The Details

Web Content Management System (WCMS).
The New School chose to remain on its existing CMS software, Ektron. The site was configured intuitively within Ektron, and the page layouts were aligned appropriately with the foldering strategy defined previously. Part of the site was hosted on the new version of the CMS, and part of the site on the older version. The migration of the CMS was originally done internally, and to solve this, unique routing solutions were developed to support these non-parallel upgrades.

The site was configured to make appropriate use of taxonomy. However, there were inappropriate configurations that made use of the taxonomy reach beyond its intended purpose. While this was acceptable for the site as it was, it presented several challenges as the team attempted to migrate to a new CMS in future phases. Overall, the code required substantial clean-up, and was optimized to improve user/author capabilities, performance and ongoing maintenance.

The University needed a migration transition to a more modern CMS in order to better engage its audience.

The Project/Team.
The project team consisted of The New School, with Mozaro leading the development effort, working in close partnership with AREA 17, leading the strategy, UX, design and front-end. Communication and collaboration, along with modifications in the requirements and sliding deliverables, made it necessary for the team to change the original plan—a Waterfall approach—to a more sprint-based approach. This was a good exercise in planning and necessary to support the University’s extensive list of content reviewers needed to launch each departmental website.

Mozaro Team.
The Mozaro team was led by our in-house project manager. The project also included a development lead and a content lead, both of whom worked closely with other developers and content engineers to deliver under the evolving conditions. The team did an exemplary job and tackled, with grace, every request.



Summary

The New School redesign is a multi-year project and was originally won through a competitive bid in March 2017 as AREA 17's Episerver/Ektron partner. Our most recent phase included the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts and the Schools of Public Engagement. This portion of the project’s completion date was July 2019.

The final phases of the redesign include revamps of the Parsons School of Design websites for both their New York and Paris campuses.

The development effort also addresses optimizing and troubleshooting existing code, the implementation of template designs, improving integration throughout, content migration support, improving author experience and support for extensive content Q&A where technical work is required. Site planning was also addressed in our most recent phase as the hosted servers were drastically underpowered.

In our next/final redesign and migration phase, the team will continue working with the same successful tactics prior employed. This time, the length of the project has increased to allow for more time to be given to the departments for their Q&A/review.

The project will run through Summer 2020.

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