Skip to main content
Glendon Campus Alumni Research Giving to York Media Careers International York U Lions Accessibility
Future Students Current Students Faculty and Staff
Faculties Libraries York U Organization Directory Site Index Campus Maps
Web > CMS Review

CMS Review

Content Management System Review

CMS Review Report

Wednesday 23 February 2011: Content Management System Review sent out.

Recommendation: Move to a new CMS.

Notes from 11 January 2011: Cataloguing Committee (Heather Fraser, Stacy Allison-Cassin, Brian Stearns, Brenda Maxwell, F. Tim Knight)

Bibliographic Services has by far the largest amount of content up on our web site; it’s publicly available though not aimed at the public, because it’s documentation about policies and procedures, notes and minutes, etc. There are almost 1400 pages in the CMS in the /Biblio/ section!

Heather is no fan of the HTML editor. She often creates things outside and then just pastes them in. She would like syntax highlighting to come back; it used to be there and is an enormous help when editing HTML, and she often does. It’s difficult to deal with images, so she often makes a PDF and links to it. That is simplest.

Stacy agrees working with images and styles is hard. There is no way to set up good design in the CMS. Floating images to the side, for example, usually ends up not working; often the editor will strip out the CSS directives. She would also like to be able to include content blocks in specific places. Comments: “It is fairly easy to create a straight-forward page, however it is not possible to take full advantage of the capabilities of the web.” She would like to be able to do more dynamic content (image kiosks, embedded multimedia, integration of RSS feeds).

It would be nice to be able to format a page without using tables.

Other experiences: Stacy uses Drupal for the Scholarly Communications Initiative and CAML, and WordPress for the Gender and Work Database. They use plugins and extensions there. Also: the Google suite, Dropbox, Goodle, PBWiki. Brenda Maxwell: blogging as Osgoode. Brian and Haiyun: no other web publishing. Tim: has his own web site, and is on some music sites, plus various social networking sites.

Tim is moving a lot of content into a Lotus Notes-driven wiki at Osgoode, to get all of their procedural documents into something that is much easier to search.

Notes from 29 November 2010: Bronfman (Toni Olshen, Sophie Bury; Elizabeth Watson and June Hill by email)

AS and WD talked to Toni and Sophie. Elizabeth and June could not, at the last minute, attend, but sent answers by email.

What content do you have to manage?

Elizabeth Watson: Operational (Bronfman-related) and instructional and research related web pages. Also maintains the list of research done by Schulich faculty.

Toni Olshen: Subject guides, course guides, list of business videos, list of bestsellers. Plain text, nothing fancy.

Sophie Bury: Course and subject guides, information literacy site, Information Literacy Committee site, business research screencasts (with June Hill). “The number of times I come out of the CMS, and don’t want to go back …”

June Hill: Updates to existing content. Screencasts.

All four are bothered by the way the HTML editor changes things and makes it difficult to format text. An entire section can go bold and Sophie would spend 15-20 minutes getting it changed back. She sometimes has to edit the HTML by hand to get it fixed up. Toni finds that even pasting in from other pages in the CMS can run into formatting problems. Sometimes they need to start over from scratch.

Adding images is not simple. Should be easier. Also editing/resizing them is difficult.

June would like ways to add widgets for polls, YouTube videos, calendars, etc. LibGuides is an example of how easy it can be to do this.

Other web publishing: Toni uses Google Calendar, Moodle, York survey tool. Sophie uses Google Calendar, Google Docs, Moodle, WordPress, the survey tool, Facebook. Elizabeth uses Google Calendar and WordPress. June uses Google Calendar, Google Docs, RSS readers.

PCAC had a top-notch tool set up for them by Learning Technology Services. Deals with PDFs (scans and originals?) and other documents related to the tenure process. People can edit, comment, and track changes, all in a secure, access-controlled environment. It’s confidential and meets all their needs for group collaboration. Great example of a custom-built system serving a particular need that could be generalized across campus to every group that needs to deal with confidential documents.

Sophie’s idea: a pool of questions that could be used by librarians for pre-test and post-test surveys. If the CMS lets people set up quizzes and surveys, then there could be a set of questions that intruction librarians could use to test the effectiveness of a class, a workshop, or something else. Questions could be standardized and based, for example, on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Librarians could pick and choose questions they want to ask on any particular page, to suit their particular purpose. Good example of something that is impossible right now in the CMS, but if available could be used in all sorts of ways. Builds assessment and (in this particular example) IL right into the way our web presence works.

Toni: CMS should let us put publish/unpublish dates on pages, so they go live and then go away without manual intervention. Our CMS used to do this.

Toni: Our CMS also used to have a database of eResource descriptions that could be easily dropped in to course/subject guides. This went away in the summer of 2008.

Discussion of idea of a database of images that everyone could use. People could refer to image A and use it in their pages knowing it would always be a screenshot of the home page, for example; or that image B would always show how to do an advanced search in the catalogue. Then, if those pages change, the image can be updated in one place and everyone’s web pages are automatically up to date, without them having to do all the work of taking new screenshots. The images would be tagged/labelled.

Also on the idea of reuse of content, June said, “Instead of 5 people updating hours pages or forgetting to update hours of operation pages just have one person input the data and let the cms cascade the information. This also applies to if a url changes or any kind of repeat content, the cms could automatically cascade the change instead of someone trying to remember all of the pages where they put that link.”

Times of the year: Toni does most updating in the summer, but also small things throughout the year. Course guides in September/January. Elizabeth does weekly updates to the site, and daily in August/September. She updates when there are changes in resources, course guides to be done, operational information about Bronfman has changed, etc.

Feature wanted: automatic link checking. Be able to get report of all of the links on a page or pages that have broken links.

Feature wanted: spell-checking (Canadian).

Toni pointed out that lots of links on pages go to the classic catalogue, and we should update them all to point to VuFind. Hard to do manually.

Elizabeth: design possibilities very limited by current CMS. Would like to have less structure enforced on how pages are set up.

Notes from 15 November 2010: Frost (Julie Drexler, Stacey Mechefske, Vivienne Monty, Juliya Borie)

WD visited Frost and talked to two people each in two sessions.

Julie Drexler: The content she manages is class outlines. Wants to be able to make a course guide that looks as nice as a Word document, with graphics, something she can easily format. The HTML editor does bad things to fonts, colours, etc., makes fonts large, changes formatting, adds italics. “Very frustrating. Things disappear.” Perhaps she might want to embed a video.

Stacey Mechefske: Various things. Circulation has forms and tables that they would like to have online. She is having some problems with the Frost reserve form (which professors would use to order things to be put on reserve). There are some fields in the form that need to be changed or configured, but it has disappeared again.

Putting in anchors never works for her. She does it in HTML by hand. She used to use Dreamweaver, but stopped.

French and accents: in any system it needs to be very easy to enter in characters with diacritical marks, for French and other languages.

Question: how would the French content fit into a new site? Bilingual content, parallel content.

Other web sites they use: Julie uses Google Calendar (“I can’t say I love it, but it works”); not Google Docs yet; Facebook for posting pictures (“I absolutely despise Flickr”).

Stacey has been spending time thinking about new content she can put on the Frost web site. Thinking about how to do some kind of quick answer tool for student assistants so they can answer questions when there’s no-one permanent around. There’s a paper manual that she’d like to get online—no-one uses it because it’s in paper. How to get it online? How best to do it?

Julie would like some kind of guestbook. “The odd time we get people who are saying very nice things about us. It would be nice to have an electronic guestbook.” Or suggestion box. Stacey says: Ricardo made one, and it responds to the person.

Embedding other kinds of content: They would like that. For example Stacey would love a little video to show people how the intercampus borrowing works.

Vivienne Monty: Two sets of content she has to manage. 1. The Frost web site. Used to be pretty, but when the CMS was added they stripped out all of the graphics. Helped with non-English speakers to understand what was going on. She spent five weeks of her own holiday time working on it and then it all got stripped out. Difficult to put good graphics in (good point there). 2. Course guides. Lots of work and updating. Should be able to carry the formatting over from a Word document, or the editor should be easier to do formatting in. The editor will remove formatting and change things. Wants choice in the types of bullets (eg coloured). It’s also difficult to clear out formatting of bullets and things in the editor.

Juliya Borie: Colours get changed on you. They can look OK when you’re editing, but when you save, they get changed.

Vivienne: Wants to be able to make things bigger and bold. She’s been making them h1 tags but she knows that that’s wrong. E.g. GL/POLS2600 handout.

Vivienne set up their own Frost folder for course guides, because the numbers can overlap with Keele courses.

Both Vivienne and Juliya use the CMS editor as is, and don’t use an outside editor like Dreamweaver.

Juliya: Had problems where she would click save, it would hang for a while, and then she would lose her work. Has happened to Vivienne too.

Vivienne: Difficult to create a generic template. She has templates she’s made for course guides (both English and French), but when copying accents and things around they get lost. Also you can’t just copy a template, you need to copy and paste, and it doesn’t come out looking the same.

French diacritics very important here. They write in Word and then copy and paste; when they paste into the CMS “it looks like a dog’s breakfast.”

Other content: Vivienne has her own web page, which she maintains with FrontPage. No Facebook, no Google Docs. Uses Google Calendar.

Juliya: Facebook. No Twitter. LinkedIn. Uses Google Calendar, Google Docs. Will look into Dropbox.

Multimedia and content like that: V has a Flip video camera. She made a 30-second video that she ended up putting on YouTube because it was too big to upload. V dislikes the way that graphics are uploaded. Tuan said that only JPEGs can be uploaded. She had to convert to another format. Problematic to upload a WAV file, she says. She uses Jing to record screencasts.

?? Easiest way to get Jing recordings online?

J: Uses YouTube, plans to learn about Jing or Captivate.

How much time in the CMS? Varies. Mostly in Sep-Oct, 5-6 hours a week doing things for classes. Vivienne does a lot of updates on the Frost web site in the summer, maybe an hour a week.

New content would go up in English and French. Vivienne would write something up in English, translate it, and pass it by Julie. Juliya would do the same.

Events: they listed some events in the calendar in the fall, but they could only put them up in English. They could not list events in both languages. Problem! There are more native French-speakers than before.

Notes from 5 November 2010: Steacie (John Dupuis, Ricardo Laskaris)

WD visited Steacie and he and AH talked to two frequent web publishers there. John has abandoned the CMS and moved to a blog. Ricardo handles the updates for the Steacie pages and does a lot of small edits.

What content do you manage?

John Dupuis: Subject and course guides. Subject guides he updates about once a year. He always dreads doing it because he always forgets how it works. For course guides, he uses WordPress. He abandoned the CMS because it was too complex for course guides.

Before his last sabbatical he used to do course guides in her personal web space, which he’d update with FrontPage. Then he saw an OLA talk by a librarian who had made a portal for English Literature students in Joomla, and he was inspired. However, instead of using Joomla to make a portal, he used WordPress to make course guides.

He does the same classes every year. He fixes up old posts, edits, updates, and republishes with a new date. He has good Google Fu on, for example, a search for NATS 1840. It’s easy for students to remember (and somewhat impressive) that they can just Google their course code and find the guide. He uses Google Analytics on the blog, so he can see how usage goes, especially the spikes after a class visit.

He loves WordPress, including the editor, which he says is great.

The Steacie home page is not heavily viewed.

Confessions of a Science Librarian is run on Movable Type.

Other web tools used: Google Docs, Twitter, FriendFeed.

Steacie is on Facebook, Twitter, Google Places, and Foursquare. They use PBWiki for their staff calendar.

Ricardo Laskaris: Looks after hours, lists of software, pages about unusual items like the camera and iPhone, and other miscellaneous things on the Steacie web site. He has become used to the CMS and doesn’t mind it so much any more.

Has problems with Xinha, the HTML editor. It’s awkward. It often strips things out of the HTML, or edits it in a way he doesn’t want.

Uses WordPress for the new books blog.

Duplication of work: he has to put hours updates in multiple places: the web site, Google Calendar, Facebook, etc.

Uses WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook personally

Mobile site: should have quick catalogue search, with the assumption that it’s used by people in the stacks wandering around; reserves search, hours, contact information.

Notes from 25 October 2010: Walter Giesbrecht, Tom Scott, Rob van der Bliek

What is your content? What do you need to manage?

Tom Scott: history resources (Canadian, American, UK, etc.). He keeps adding guides and resources to match the way history is taught here. He uses his own web space to host them, not the subject guides in the CMS. He uses Dreamweaver. Moved away from the CMS in 2009.

Rob: Moved off the CMS in 2008. Waited for CMS improvements and then did it himself. Uses a blog divided into four sections: for eResources (divided into periodicals, reference, scores and books). Uses it to point to resources and organizing content. Also posts on his blog about new resources, news. Has some user stats that he can share. Left because he didn’t like the CMS publishing process, and because our current CMS looks/is outdated – blogs are more modern, there are more options.

Tom Scott: “wanted to do more,” wanted layout that was more visually appealing. Does not like the current subject guides = one big long page with standardized, static headings. Wants to be able to link to related resources in the right-hand side.

Rob – typology was problematic as well – especially from music perspectives. (Tom agrees) Rob also uses RSS feeds for new material. Angela mentioned SUNY Buffalo that allows for tab feature for news blog tab. Rob finds current web frame too contraining. It takes up a lot of real estate.

Tom: CMS needs to be flexible, ability to customize to department and branch. Wants a presence for Scott Reference: services, resources appropriate to their users, instructional content, emphasis on students in FLAPS and FES. Scott Library is suffering from an identity crisis. Scott Library needs a presence too.

Rob: What is LibGuides offering that decent blog software can’t accomplish? (WD – good question). He uses WordPress and likes it. The widgets work very well.

Tom Scott – it is essential that we set up a system/work flow/ that does not rely overmuch on systems support to progress. Advocates dispersed authority and power to update, customize and edit.

Walter (in at 3pm) – in the past, the CMS has been too slow to turn over and edit. He would like to have a feature that can automatically filter out (or prompt the user of the existence of) foreign HTML tagging. He uses HomeSite to edit content and then loads it into the CMS.

Rob uses FrontPage to edit and then copies the content up.

Tom Scott – wants freedom, agency to update, innovate. Right now there are far too many restrictions.

Walter: HTML editor should do syntax highlighting (colour-coding of HTML) so it’s easy to see what’s what, not have everything in plain black text as it is now. Should be able to have directory-specific stylesheets so he doesn’t have to embed inline CSS in pages. Also, prefab style sheets or ability to create style sheets that he can save.

Rob – online streaming music has grown tremendously but is not known enough. We have the eqvuivalent to 50 – 60,000 CDs online, only about 8-9,000 are in the catalogue. His vision: a music portal that can draw out info from databases. Integrate with other related material (i.e. scores, archival material), so user can search for a composer and gets suggestions for different online sources to use. Music should have its own online entity.

Walter – agrees – there are lots of data sets that are not in the catalogue, we need to be building knowledge content – ability to customize tabs for your particular requirements.

Tom – There is no library link on the external home page – we should lobby to get it added.

Other online systems used: Rob uses Google Docs. Mention of Access databases (now not accessible since there is no support for them – this is a similar case in Archives – lots of legacy Access databases that make things problematic). Walter: Gender and Work Database has a custom system but they are migrating to WordPress.

How often do you use the CMS? – All three – impossible to tell – all depends on the time of year. “There’s never enough time.”

Tom uses an asset library in Dreamweaver so he can include the same descriptive text for any link, include it in multiple pages, and change the text/URL once and then have it change on all of the pages.

Tom or Walter : There are lots of external links – not necessarily in the catalogue or appropriate for eResources – will we have the opportunity to pull those out and highlight them in the new subject guides/CMS?

Walter – they tried that with MULER but you would get multiple duplicate records returned and have to select the best of a bad lot.

Walter wants pages that can go live and expire based on prior stipulations.

Tom – setting up schedules, availability of subject librarians, workshops, calendars. Needs a system where students can book an appointment with a librarian.

Rob wants self-directed change, WordPress is preferred b/c it has external support, is easily updated and modern. Issue of external hosting. Possible scenario: Drupal for static content and then every librarian runs their own blog.

We should investigate case studies where these types of workflow reporting systems are in place. Anna keeps thinking of how erratic and noisy the iSchool website looks now that they rely on blogging software to maintain their website.

We need models for operations We need models for design. WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

Questions to Ask

Bill’s questions:

- What is the content you need to manage?

- What do you need to do on the web? What would you like to do on the web?

- How do you use the CMS?

- What are the most common things you do?

- What takes the most time or is the most difficult or tedious to do?

- (If they don’t use it, why not? What are they doing outside the CMS?)

- What does it do well for you?

- What does it not do?

- (To find other experience:) Do you run a blog or use any other content management system somewhere else, or do any other kind of web publishing?

Anna’s questions:

Basic questions:

  • What do you need from a CMS?
  • What do you want from a CMS?

I. Functional Questions

  1. What do you use the CMS for? Do you use it as a staging area? Do you do your design and composition through another program and then cut-and-paste into the CMS and upload?
  2. Are there elements of the CMS that prevent you from realizing your online objectives? Are there elements upon which you rely in the current CMS?
  3. How quickly can you accomplish an update to pages that you are responsible for? Is this a reasonable time for you? Is there anything that would make this process easier?
  4. Would you prefer a more centralized system where shared information such as library hours, workshop schedules, etc. was updated from a single source and all other references would be aggregated from that source?
  5. Do you use external services to accomplish tasks in your work rather than using the CMS (i.e. write a blog, organize events through Google Calendar, Doodle, share documents on Google Docs, post lecture notes etc.) ? What services to these programs offer that are lacking in the CMS? If these services were embedded into the CMS would you use them?

II. Aesthetic Questions

  1. What do you like about the current web designs possible through the current CMS? What frustrates you about the designs available through the current CMS?
  2. Is there anything you would like to be able to do (i.e. splash pages, revolving images kiosks, image or video embedding) with the CMS which is currently impossible and/or problematic?
  3. Would you like more or less structure to the current layouts of the library web pages? Would you like drag-and-drop modules that you can use to populate your pages (such as library hours, contact information, image galleries).
  4. Are there any elements of the current website that you would change if asked?

III. Road blocks

  1. How much time to do you spend updating the pages on the library website for which you are responsible? What times of the week/year do you spend more time using the CMS?
  2. Are there factors that influence the amount of time/effort you invest in the websites?
  3. How much time/effort would you invest in training on a new system?

Notes from 29 Sep 2010, WD, AS

New CMS as platform for new web applications: Over the last year or two we’ve built or implemented a number of systems to solve problems our CMS couldn’t manage: MULER, the eResources best bets, the subject guide system, Omeka, web services to show course and subject guide information in the portal and Moodle. If we had a CMS that was a platform for web applications, we could have used it for all of those. We will undoubtedly keep on building more web applications, so finding a system we can use as a platform for them should in the end save time and effort and allow more reuse of content.

Example: Librarian information. We have several pages where librarian information is listed: roles as subject librarians, liaison librarians, My Librarian, etc. Every time anything about a librarian or a role changes, all those pages need to be updated. If we made all those pages driven from a database, there would be one place to manage the content, and all of the content would always be current.

Demos to show what a new CMS can do: When we have something to show people, do some short demos and screencasts that show what can be done and (one hopes) how easily.

Use cases

Build up a set of use cases to test on CMSes.

  • Edit a page
  • Create a page
  • Include elements from other sites (YUL, York, or outside), eg RSS feeds from eResource best bets and subject guides
  • Photo gallery
  • Embedding video and audio (perhaps from external sites, like YouTube)
  • Including hours from the Google Calendar
  • Showing customized content based on Passport York information
  • Logging in with Passport York to view a certain page (eg door code for Graduate Student Reading Room)

Questions to ask people

Find out what people do in the CMS, what they like and don’t, and what they think they will need to be able to do in the next couple of years. If they don’t use the CMS, why not?

  • What do you need to do on the web? What would you like to do on the web?
  • How do you use the CMS?
  • What are the most common things you do?
  • What takes the most time or is the most difficult or tedious to do?
  • (If they don’t use it, why not? What are they doing outside the CMS?)
  • What does it do well for you?
  • What does it not do?
  • (To find other experience:) Do you run a blog or use any other content management system somewhere else, or do any other kind of web publishing?

Talk to people in groups?

It might save time, and prompt more discussion, if we talked to people in groups.

Subject specific groups that are frequent editors: Rob van der Bliek, Walter Giesbrecht, Tom Scott, Rajiv Nariani, Adam Taves, Elizabeth Watson (who approves all Bronfman edits)

Administrative Functions: Christina Pringi, Fei Feng, Gillane Beard (ULO); Janet Cheng (Scott Reference), Stacey Mechefske (Glendon)

Branch Libraries (top editors): Ricardo Laskaris, Vivienne Monty, June Hill

Special Format Department activities: Julia Holland (archives), Dana Craig (formerly Maps), Vito Ciraco? (SMIL)-SMIL

LCS: Maybe this should be at the end so we can come with some user-generated feedback and content to discuss: Tuan Nguyen, Terry Danylak, Ali Sadaqain, Howard Hui, Walter Griffatong. What are their particular needs and requirements as programmers and system administrators? What do they want from the CMS?

Notes from 12 May 2010, WD, AH, AS

Basic Plan

  1. Talk to RT re. scope of project, participation by LCS etc.
  2. Plan site visits with heads of department/staff who do most of the work on the CMS

    Types of Questions:

    • What do you need/what do you do?
    • What problems/frustration do you have?
    • What do you want to be able to do in the future?
  3. Develop demos, comparisons, to present to staff to emphasize strengths & benefits of various platforms.
    • detailed demos
    • basic demos, i.e. how to write for the web
  4. Lay the groundwork for staff awareness, identify needs, assist LCS in implementation of selected platform in Fall 2010.

    3 or 4 scenarios that will demonstrate the strengths of each systems

    • presenting multimedia including audio, video, images, maps, flash, etc.
    • repurposing video
    • revolving exhibits, book turnstile display
    • Developing a page with multiple components (drag and drop modules)
    • editing elements on a page
    • geolocation, mapping
    • mobile interface

CMSes to examine

Other elements to examine and compare:

  • HTML editor – we currently use Xinha
  • Subject research guide software (another group is working on that)

Comparison from

Compare Drupal, Expression, Joomla, and WordPress

Comments are closed.