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


  • 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.

  • First Sitefinity class is full

    November 9, 2015, 17:13 PM by Pep Valdes
    We have reached capacity on our first Sitefinity training session. If you are interested but couldn’t or didn’t make this first classroom session, watch this site for a webcast of the presentation and supplemental training and support materials.
  • 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.

  • 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/.

  • 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:

  • 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.

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