Spring 2020 Update: Summer Website Update Plans

This summer, we will be upgrading our Drupal based websites to a new page layout system called "Layout Builder".  This is the same system that Institute Communications is using in their official Drupal 8 web theme package that they released earlier this year.

We will remain on our custom implementation of the theme, which adheres to all of the visual standards set by the institute, while adding in the functionality of Layout Builder, which will replace the current layout system used for "Landing Pages".  My goal is to deploy this new system with minimum heartache for all of us so that we can reap the benefits of it without having to go through all the overhead of a traditional website upgrade process.

What Does This Mean For You?

The methods used to create and manage Landing Pages will change and some of the terminology in the editing interface will change, but most of the basic concepts involved will remain the same.  New documentation has been prepared to help with the transition, and if needed, we can do video conferences to go over how the new layout system works.

How Does the Upgrade Process Work?

The upgrade will be done in a transparent fashion without any downtime to websites.  The process will look like this:

  1. We will make a full backup of the site, just to be safe
  2. We will install the components of the new Layout Builder system and enable them
  3. We will (over a period of days in some cases) update existing Landing Pages from the current system to the Layout Builder system.
    • Pages will always be available to you and your site visitors
    • URL paths will NOT change in any way
    • Content will NOT change, except where notable accessibility issues are noticed and need to be fixed
    • Layouts will change only when absolutely necessary (the new system has been tailored to accommodate the majority of existing page layouts)
    • Visual styles will change slightly to embrace the body content styles that are now recommended by Institute Communications.  We do have some flexibility in this area but you should be thinking only in terms of gently massaging the recommended style guide, not completely redoing it.
  4. Once all pages have been converted to Layout Builder, we will remove the old layout system from the site

We will notify the appropriate website content manager before any of this works begins, since we will need to coordinate to minimize stepping on each others toes during the upgrade process.

How Long Will This Take?

It depends on how large your unit's website is and specifically how many Landing Pages you have.  Sites with just a few Landing Pages will be completed in one afternoon.  Sites with lots of Landing Pages may take a week or more.  However, since the process is transparent to site visitors, the impact should still be minimal.

When Will Site Upgrades Begin?

We have selected two schools to start with that both have sites with a minimal number of Landing Pages.  We will start work on their upgrades the week of May 4th.  Once they are complete, we will begin scheduling additional websites for upgrade.  We have 40 Drupal sites in all throughout the college, so this will be a full summer-long project, possibly even extending into Fall semester for the two schools that each have nearly a hundred landing pages to be converted (we will be tackling those schools last, BTW.)