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


  • 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    We’re still tweaking and still discovering things that need changing (and outdated content is always an issue).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.

  • Work under way on “www,” registration form to be ready next week

    October 7, 2015, 17:00 PM by Pep Valdes

    With the launch of the new iUTMB behind us and everything humming along, there’s a lot of furious work taking place in anticipation of launching the internal home page’s big brother, the responsive, Sitefinity CMS version of the public home page. It’s a complex project with a  lot of moving pieces, we expect to hit snags and—as we’ve done dozens of times in the past year—should be able to bleed and power through them.

    While the work on the page launch is taking place, the registration and site request form is being finalized. Our goal is to have that available to users next week. We’re also working on updating some of the documentation and “how to’s”; our change from Foundation to Bootstrap (for the responsive approach) left us with some out-of-date screenshots.

    As a reminder, the new iUTMB page may be seen at http://intranet.utmb.edu/iutmb. (Users must be on the UTMB network or VPNed to access; use any modern browser for a full-featured experience.) For comparison, the original iUTMB is still available at http://www.utmb.edu/iutmb/. The intranet site is behind the firewall and truly internal; the www/iUTMB page is public and will change when we change the public home page. We hit two minor surprises, with images and resources links, when we went live, but both were resolved within an hour.

    To see some of the new features, click on the newly relocated alerts or the calendar items. Or, resize your desktop (or visit on your phone if you are on our UTMB network) to see the responsive design in action.

    A caveat: if you’re on an old version of the web browser Internet Explorer (IE), you’ll get a clean presentation but none of the bells & whistles or the dynamic resizing. The videos also won’t work, they’re on YouTube which uses HTML 5. Make sure you’re not in “compatibility mode” in any version of IE; it takes you back to IE7/6 and is often on by default. Kudos to Mike Cooper for an incredible amount of work to get the backward compatibility in place. Most companies and organizations have just walked away from old browsers, which wasn’t a good solution for us. If you have an older version of IE (IE 8 or below) and have the option to upgrade to a newer version of IE or install a modern browser such as Firefox, please do so.

  • The biggest change you’re likely to not notice…

    October 5, 2015, 16:56 PM by Pep Valdes

    In the words of Information Service’s Toby Smith:

    “The internal home pages have been switched to Sitefinity. One down, one to go.”

  • 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 utmb.edu. 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 utmb.edu, 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 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:

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