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

  • Pushing past “middle of September”: A quick Sitefinity CMS update

    September 22, 2015, 16:50 PM by Pep Valdes

    For the past month, our mantra has been “the middle of September.” This was the timeslot when we anticipated opening up the Sitefinity content management system, a key element of the Web Reboot, to campus users. So today is September 22, effectively the end of that squishy period that could be called “the middle.” Here’s how we feel about it.  

    In about the simplest of terms, about ten days ago we started running tests of Sitefinity in a live environment, living alongside non-Sitefinity sites. We’d tested extensively in a development environment, were assured it would “play well with others,” the software hadn’t created any issues when we beta-tested in a protected live area. But late one evening a bit more than a week ago, we pulled the trigger, and our website derailed. 

    Every big technology project runs into speed bumps—there are always issues to work through. Sitefinity has been no different. What was heartbreaking about that evening is that we were so close, there had been so much work and planning, and the outcome was a blow. The original web site was restored. It was a rough night, a gloomy morning, and then we started working on solutions. And the team found several.

    Last week was spent putting the most promising of those solutions in place: the Information Services server team helped create a new virtual hosting environment for Sitefinity, those boxes have now been configured, and we are planning to resume our testing this week, starting with iUTMB and the intranet. We’ll follow up with the public home page, and when that goes well, we’ll be back on track to open up to users.

    In spite of the battle scars and mental trauma, we’re still really excited about Sitefinity, think users will embrace it, and expect it to be very successful. We’ll continue to post updates, including an anticipated schedule and our progress on the upcoming tests.

  • Thirty days of web traffic to broken down by type of browser. (click to view full size)

    Can’t we all just get along?

    September 10, 2015, 16:42 PM by Pep Valdes

    One of the biggest challenges we face when developing or introducing new tools is browser compatibility. We’ve all experienced it: one web page will tell you your browser is too new, the next says it’s outdated and too old. As with any large and complex organization, we bridge a lot of technologies at UTMB. There are legacy systems—older tools, programs, software, hardware—which generally do the job and can often be pretty important. They’re often not keeping with the times, usually for justifiable reasons (cost, more pressing priorities, impact on related systems, etc). So what do we do?

    We can’t stay mired in the past, we can’t ignore users with old browsers, and we can’t afford to be browser-centric. Even though Internet Explorer accounts for 68 percent of the traffic to, there are seven versions(!) of IE visiting us in a month, and 40 percent of the IE traffic is version 7.0 (or in 7-compatibility mode). This was a browser released in 2006; Google hasn’t supported it since 2011, and even Microsoft no longer supports it.   

    So we invest a lot of time in making our templates and pages  work with older browsers. We run and test on a UTMB thin client. We each run and use multiple browsers throughout the day, with Firefox being the office favorite, probably followed by Chrome. But as diligent and careful as we may be, there are a lot of variables. Update if you can. Report any weirdness you encounter. Keep the pitchforks away, and let’s join in some “Kumbaya.”

  • 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 and

    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

  • Forms tool, new digital campus map

    September 4, 2015, 16:39 PM by Pep Valdes

    At our last update, we briefly mentioned a number of new tools that are part of the Web Reboot. Here’s a little bit more about them:

    • We now have a production example of one of the first instances of the new form tool, live and in use. View it on the new Sponsorship Committee page. (Be sure to use a modern web browser; it does not like IE 8). This tool is also being used to build the new site request and registration tool for Sitefinity.  
    • We are on schedule for an October launch of our new editable, embeddable online map. We’ve been meeting with stakeholders, shipped off a 300+ line location spreadsheet, and now have a pretty decent 3-D rendering of all three UTMB campuses. The map offers a custom print feature and custom views of it can be embedded in your web pages. It also offers a virtual tour function, something we are eager to be able to offer.
  • 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:

  • Draft of new web guidelines ready for review and input

    August 4, 2015, 16:36 PM by Pep Valdes

    We’ve been working to flesh out some updated web guidelines in time to share at today’s large meeting between the ITC and members of the UTMB web development community. These are designed to align with new requirements and capabilities mapped out as part of the Web Reboot. The guidelines are now ready for review and feedback:

    Please send your questions and suggestions to

  • 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
    •  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)
      • – (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