The UTMB Web Blog Tips, tech and news for the UTMB web community


  • Sitefinity “Work in Progress”

    December 17, 2015, 17:22 PM by Pep Valdes

    The launch of any new enterprise-level solution often feels like a game of prolonged “whack-a-mole”: you address one issue, and another pops up. The development and launch of Sitefinity has been no different. The small crew that worked/is working to install and manage the new content management system has tackled and resolved some major puzzles. We knew our environment (internal and external presence, dev and production environments, load balanced, CMS and non-CMS sites using a variety of templates, versions and approaches, etc.) would keep things interesting. And they have been, yet the team’s been able to get the job done.

    But the moles linger. Right now we’re working on issues with synchronization, load balancing, sharing content across sites, and some authentication. These are important things to have working consistently, and we’re getting good support from the vendor to figure out the best solutions. We’ll get this resolved, and the number one goal is to do it sooner rather than later. We’re still taking requests for new CMS sites, but are holding new ones in a queue until we get these issues worked out (we don’t want people losing work or having to do extra work).

    In spite of the occasional pain, we’re still really enthusiastic about the tool and are excited about sharing it widely. Watch for updates, we’ll post them here.

  • Sitefinity training materials and site request form now online

    December 1, 2015, 17:15 PM by Pep Valdes

    A good portion of the three weeks since the November Sitefinity workshop were spent fleshing out documentation and training material (including video tutorials), much of it shaped and inspired by what we heard during the class. Features, fixes and refinements have been and will continue to be added to the content management system. The CMS is “live” in the sense that it’s currently being used to build and deliver pages; we have begun to accept requests to set up new Sitefinity sites. But it would also be accurate to say we are still in the “soft launch” stage, still working out some processes and running across the occasional bug.

    Sitefinity is easy to use, but you will probably not be able to look at it and intuitively “figure it out.” If you are like me, one of those people who resorts to a manual/instructions/directions only after exhausting every other option, heed my advice: You will like Sitefinity much more if you take 30 minutes to review some of the basics about how the system works. If you have time for a class (next one will be in January), even better.

    Here are some of the materials we already have online:

    External thanks to Mike Cooper and Melissa Harman for developing most of the training site, and to Toby Smith and the team in IS for running with the site registrations/requests.

  • It’s a game changer, and it’s done

    October 8, 2015, 17:07 PM by Pep Valdes

    Today at about 12:27 pm, the new www pages in the Sitefinity content management system went live. Our home pages are now responsive, and we took a major step forward in our project to re-think and re-engineer web development at UTMB. A short while later, I edited my first live page in Sitefinity, and it was a breeze. The performance issues we discussed a month ago have all been addressed, the system blazes.

    We’re still tweaking and still discovering things that need changing (and outdated content is always an issue). However, we made a huge step forward today thanks to the herculean efforts of a small but dedicated multi-departmental team that I am proud to count as colleagues.

    We are looking forward now to expanding our ranks, to working with more developers around campus as we roll out this tool. In the meantime, if you encounter any problems, contact the IS help desk or send us a message.

  • Where we stand on the Sitefinity CMS

    September 4, 2015, 16:41 PM by Pep Valdes

    We are still pushing for a “go live” for Sitefinity in mid-September. Last week, some pretty serious optimization and performance testing was done, with great results. Those who were in the last live demo saw how the tool could bog down. We pledged to launch a product that was running as efficiently and smoothly as possible, one that we will (and would want to) use ourselves. It took stripping the system down to bare components, some updates, and meticulous rebuilding, but the outcome was worth the effort. It’s running great. 

    We have another big test being done now: the new “interim” responsive home pages are being tested in a safe area of our production environment. The pages are designed to let us move ahead with the Sitefinity rollout, they get us back on kind terms with Google and mobile search, and buy us time to solicit feedback from users and stakeholders on what the home pages should become. (These new pages are essentially the same content in same places we had before, just responsive and in the new CMS. Preview at http://intranetstage.utmb.edu/iutmb and http://wwwstage.utmb.edu/?i=welcome)

    In other big news, we changed the framework for the responsive design functionality in our templates from Foundation to Bootstrap (this was driven by the last very excellent update to Bootstrap and Microsoft’s recent announcement that they will support the latter). The change was a bit of work but it started showing a payoff immediately: Bootstrap is working a lot better in Sitefinity. The info we have online about our responsive freamework will need to be updated, but the basic tenets and philosophy behind the responsive design are still the same with both frameworks. We think this change will be well received by most developers.      

    There is a draft circulating of the form that will allow people to: 1) request  a new site (or get access to an existing site)  and 2) populate the institutional site inventory, serving as the “registration” we’re requiring for all sites in the future.  

    The new process seeks very explicit information about sites roles (who owns a site, who manages it). It’s also pretty clean and simple. The data and process will build on the work we did with the inventory tool at http://sandbox.utmb.edu/web/sites/.

  • Recap of Aug. 4 Sitefinity CMS introduction

    August 4, 2015, 16:37 PM by Pep Valdes

    On Aug. 4, we presented an update on the Web Reboot initiative and an introduction to the Sitefinity content management system. The session drew a large and engaged audience with a lot of great questions. The meeting was recorded and the video, handouts, a session evaluation form and the presentation are now below:

  • First major Sitefinity system upgrade nearly complete

    August 4, 2015, 16:33 PM by Pep Valdes

    We took the Sitefinity CMS offline on 7/30 for a core system upgrade; it should be available to the users who are part of our staging pilot later today (about 12 people).

    We knew upgrades are part of the Sitefinity ecosystem; our colleagues in Family Medicine have used this CMS for a few years and they had given us a sense of what to expect. Every good tool needs to evolve.

    However, because so much work has gone into getting us to this point, we were a little leery of launching a new version. After a demo session about it, the benefits looked pretty significant. Even better, the update work has gone very well: the system is running faster, we have better support for ASP MVC 5 and .NET 4.5, and a number of new, very slick MVC-based widgets have been added. The upgrade made sense now, during the pilot and before we had a hundred new users.

    Updates are part of our contracted service and we anticipate significant ones will come along at least annually. Once we are out of the build phase and operational, we envision those upgrades going through IS and following the sorts of protocols we use for other applications.

  • Marking an important milestone in our web evolution

    August 2, 2015, 16:54 PM by Pep Valdes

    Monday we’ll launch the new iUTMB page, and it signals reaching an important point for all of us involved in web development (and even web use) at UTMB. We’ll push the first of the new pages using the Sitefinity framework into production, and from there, there is no turning back. The conversion of the external home page will follow; we’ll have the timetable ready to share once we see how iUTMB goes and start to process the mapping and redirects to some 400 affected sites. (It’ll be roughly in the 10-15 days range.) In the meantime, we’ll finish up our site request form and start pushing out more information to developers and site owners.

    No one ever thought this job would be small or easy. But it’s worth taking a brief minute to celebrate where we are and share some of the technical accomplishments that were necessary to get us here. A lot of planning and hard work are coming together. The framework for UTMB web’s presence has been rebuilt anew, looking strategically to the future. Kudos to our colleagues on the ITC, the many others that have supported the effort, and especially Mike Cooper and Toby Smith, who teamed up to grunt this work into existence. Just focusing on the technical tasks, here’s a partial rundown of what’s been done: 

    Web Infrastructure

    • New Web Servers & IIS Configurations
      •     File/folder/site clean-up on all web server
    • New Databases
    • Multi-tenant web content management system (CMS)
    • CDN (Content Delivery Network)
    • Nuget Package Manager
    • UTMB WebNav API (Web API Service)
    • TFS (Team Foundation Server) version control / project management
    • Site Inventory Tool
    • Sitefinity AD (Active Directory) group

    Professional Modern Web Applications

    •  One frontend framework (presentation layer) for all UTMB web applications
      •     Sitefinity, WordPress, Web Apps/Sites
    •  Semantic, accessible, standards-based web architecture
    •  Adaptive approach to UI content delivery
      •     Mobile-First, responsive design (RWD) for modern browsers
      •     Static (adaptive) delivery for old IE
    •   Accessibility / SEO focused
      •     Content-first rendering
      •     HTML5 semantic elements – meaningful, targetted presentation for modern and future technologies
      •     WAI ARIA Roles for assistive technologies
    • Bootstrap-based frontend design and component framework
    • Lightweight, mobile-focused content strategy

    Web App Asset Management

    •  One code base / source, versioned for all UTMB web templates – UTMB Web 2.0*
      •     UTMB Sitefinity
      •     UTMB Web Apps – C#.NET, VB.NET, C# MVC, Classic ASP
      •     UTMB WordPress
      •     UTMB Mail (work in progress)
    •  Sass / Grunt workflow – all templates / frameworks
      •     Leveraging automated tasks for speed, accuracy and versioning
      •     CSS and JavaScript linting for debugging / validation
    •  CDN delivered web assets (CSS, JavaScripts,fonts, images, etc.)
      •     Everything over SSL
      •     Caching (speed)
      •     Parallel download (speed)
    •   Nuget Package Management – all apps (except Classic ASP or HTML)
      •     Automated project version updates inside of Visual Studio
    •  TFS source / version control – all core web projects (work in progress
    •  UTMB WebNav API – single (web service) source for all institutional menus
      •     Institutional
      •     Academic
      •     Business & Finance
      •     UTMBHealth.com
    •  Site Inventory Tool (work in progress)
      •     Extend to incorporate content sign-off

    The UTMB Sitefinity CMS

    •  The UTMB Sitefinity Framework
      •     UTMB SF frontend templates (presentation layer)
      •     UTMB widget integration
      •     UTMB Site Settings module for managing site templates
      •     UTMB Dashboard – welcome messages, notifications, etc.
    •  UTMB Sitefinity CMS: Four core multi-tenant instances
      •     Intranet – (dev, stage, prod)
      •     WWW – (dev, stage)
      •     Academic – (dev, stage)
      •     UTMBHealth.com – (dev, stage)
    •  Custom configurations
      •     Ldap Integration (SF AD Group)
      •     Disabled modules not in use
      •     MVC Feather
      •     Mail/Forms integration
        •         UTMB Mail (forms/newsletter) templates (work in progress)
    •  UTMB Alert Bar capability across sites
    •  UTMB Sitefinity Documentation (work in progress)
    •  UTMB Sitefinity Training (work in progress)

    UTMB Web Root

    •  New SF hosted responsive home pages
      •     iUTMB and Public Home

  • Update on the Sitefinity CMS

    June 18, 2015, 16:21 PM by Pep Valdes

    It’s been a busy few weeks since we introduced the Web Reboot last May. In this post, I wanted to provide an update on where we are with one of the key tools of the project, the Sitefinity content management system.

     We’ve been working to build (and then optimize) the multiple installs/instances that will serve www, intranet, academic and .com. That work is finished, and we hit a major milestone last week when we started (on a limited basis) building actual pages.

    We selected a few developers to help us kick the tires and do some initial development. Part of the goal is to stress test the tool, but we also want to help inform the development of the training. So far it’s been going well. One of the sites being built is a user reference for Sitefinty users and developers, and that will likely be one of the first items we share with you.

    We will be working to push our first Sitefinity pages live in July; we are looking at dates in August for some classroom training sessions (on top of a decent amount of online content that exists or is being developed).

    The sandbox/playground we’ve set up for the Web Reboot introduction is still available for you. We are using it as the starting place for people interested in the tool, to give them a chance to get a feel for how it works.  

    To get the credentials to access the Sitefinity playground,  contact us at itc@utmb.edu.

    There is a good library of Sitefinity-related material online; not all of it applies to every user or to our implementation, but it’s a good way to scan what some of the capabilities are:

    More coming soon…

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