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College of Education > Faculty and Staff Resources > College of Education Website Redesign Case Statement

College of Education Website Redesign Case Statement

The College of Education is planning a complete redesign of its website, including a switch of Content Management System (CMS) from Plone to Drupal. This document explains the reasoning and outlines the plan for this change.

The College of Education is planning a complete redesign of its website, including a switch of Content Management System (CMS) from Plone to Drupal. This document explains the reasoning and outlines the plan for this change.


The College of Education has a sizeable web presence, with more than 4,000 web pages organized by department or administrative unit. Within the College, representatives from the Communications department are responsible for managing content, which is entered into the site by web editors across the College including members of the Communications department.

The current Content Management System (CMS) for the site is based on Plone, a free, open-source CMS built on top of the Zope application server. Zope, which also is free and open-source, is an object-oriented web application server written in Python.

The College has engaged Enfold Systems to help with applications development. Enfold also has helped the College migrate to Plone version 4. In 2015-16, the College updated its website’s look and feel. Enfold has been contracted on an hourly basis and the relationship with them has been very good.

The current website was designed with both external and internal audiences in mind. Its content is organized using the organizational structure of the College's departments, programs, etc. While this structure makes sense to people who work in the College, it can be problematic for external audiences including prospective students, who are unfamiliar with our organizational structure and therefore don't know where to find the information they're seeking.

Upkeep of the information also is problematic, because information about certain topics is manually entered multiple times across the site, often by different people. When the information needs to be updated, it is not always updated everywhere.

These content organization and update issues have implications for the College in several areas, including recruitment and retention of prospective students, faculty and staff. If these audiences can't find information about their programs of interest, or if the information is inaccurate, they may not apply for admission as students, or for faculty and staff positions.

The Plan

Other units at Penn State, including the campuses and other colleges at University Park, are redesigning their sites to focus more effectively on external audiences, organizing information by themes aligned with the University's strategic initiatives, to address the concerns raised above. In making these changes, units also have been moving from their current CMS (including Plone) to Drupal 8.

From a user perspective, the Drupal 8 CMS includes many of the features we are seeking in the website including a customizable faculty/staff directory. It streamlines content creation and updating, because content (text, images, etc.) is entered once and saved as a node, or individual piece of content. These nodes then are referenced to pull their content into multiple areas (pages) of the website. Drupal also has a rich taxonomy capability, which helps with searchability.

This plan is focused on improving performance with minimal cost and includes moving to a Drupal 8 CMS for implementation of the content and graphic redesign of the College of Education website. The recommended approach for deploying the new website look and feel using the Drupal CMS has three phases:

Phase 1 - Architecture and User Experience

  • Create an RFP (request for proposal) to select a vendor to do data collection around the current website and to determine the desired user experience. At the completion of this phase, there will be a document that can be passed to the design team.
  • This phase will run for approximately 6 months.

Phase 2 - Content Strategy, Site Design, Development, Testing, Training, Production

  • Create an RFP to select a vendor to design the new College of Education website, with design and content organization driven by the document produced in Phase 1.
  • The vendor also will be responsible for the implementation of the new website and all testing. To save funds, implementation and testing will be done on-premise using VMHosting servers.
  • The vendor will be responsible for providing training to both IT staff and web editors for the new CMS. This includes "train the trainer" sessions.
  • Acceptance sign-off will be required prior to the completion of this phase.
  • This phase will run for approximately one year.

Phase 3 Operations and Hosting

  • After the new site has been successfully implemented and testing has been signed off, the new web presence will be lifted to an external cloud Drupal container.
  • This phase also will encompass the ongoing maintenance of the new site.

Get involved

The website redesign process will be complex, with many moving parts. We want your help! If you are interested in participating in any part of the redesign process, contact Annemarie Mountz at .