Project identifies possible Web content system for campus

UC Davis has thousands of Web sites, and along with the good ones there are many that contain outdated, poorly organized or inaccessible information. That's not for lack of interest; many departments simply don't have the staff or technical expertise to develop or properly maintain good sites.

A campuswide Web content management system (CMS) would help fix those problems, and UC Davis will begin a pilot project to test a Web CMS software program later this quarter.

A Web CMS is software that stores and organizes Web site content, as well as the way that content is used and presented. It offers a system for creating, editing and publishing good sites without requiring much technical expertise.

The UC Davis Web Content Management Initiative spent much of 2007 learning what different parts of campus need from a Web CMS, then evaluated 150 potential sources. The requirements and evaluation (R&E) committee--which includes technical and Web publishing representatives from academic and administrative units across the campus--diligently narrowed that list to 14 candidates, then nine, then three, and now one.

Its recommendation was presented to the initiative's steering committee in mid-January. Pete Siegel, vice provost for Information and Educational Technology (IET) and co-sponsor of this initiative, thanked the R&E committee for an outstanding presentation and discussion. He congratulated their "impeccable process, in terms of both the core elements they explored and the out-of-the-box thinking through which they anticipated broad campus needs."

Some critical work remains before the initiative can officially launch. One of the next steps is to develop and discuss, with campus groups, a formal proposal for an implementation strategy. Next will come a pilot in which several departments and units would ado pt the new system. One-time money to buy the software and pay for the pilot was set aside last year; funds to cover ongoing program costs need further discussion.

Campus units and departments would use the software to more efficiently publish and manage the content of their department and official UC Davis Web sites. The CMS would encourage a coherent visitor experience, support compliance with legal accessibility requirements, and make it easier for Web content managers with vastly differing resources and skills to publish sites that meet campus standards.

"We're seeking a consistent user experience across UC Davis sites, regardless of where the site is managed, or by whom," said Elliot Lopez, Web consultant and project manager for University Communications.

"The key thing is, it's not a mandate," he said. "Some departments have the staff and resources to do this very well on their own, or for internal reasons need to use something proprietary. We're not keeping those folks from going down their own paths. We're looking for a system that's commonly usable that will fit the needs of most of the campus."

Learn more at the campus Web CMS site.