SIT Launches 8 Bleeding-edge Drupal Sites
This summer, Drupal Connect finalized a nine-month engagement with Stevens Institute of Technology that represents evolutionary work on multiple fronts. The new websites modernize Stevens' web presence, improve mobile and tablet reach, standardize the technology stack, and enrich the user experience. Drupal Connect's efforts also significantly improve the speed and efficiency of web administration, while reducing duplication and costs.
Responsive Design and an Increased Reach
Given Stevens' significant international appeal and the prevalence of mobile phones and tables as primary browsing devices, Drupal Connect created an HTML5 Responsive Design interface that adapts to wide, standard, narrow, tablet (portrait and landscape), and iPhone/Android (portrait and landscape) screens. For example, the theme adjusts elements in the News Events slider and gracefully resizes videos and typography. The new theme means more alumni, donors, and prospective students can view the sites in meaningful and full-featured ways.
APIs and Content Sharing Improve Browsing Experience and Reduce Costs
Stevens' had a large amount of back-end data — courses, staff bios, publications, patents, etc — that had traditionally been manually entered and maintained on the websites. This led not only to duplication of efforts, but also out-of-date information, minor inaccuracies, and typos. Drupal Connect collaborated with Stevens' in-house IT team to set up secure APIs exposing the back-end data to the Drupal sites.
The central "Hub" site consumes the API data (JSON) and in turn, shares it with the rest of the sites. In addition to the back-end systems data, Drupal Connect also built-in the capability for the Hub to share its own content as Drupal nodes, JSON, or HTML endpoints. The other sites act as clients, flexibly displaying content as appropriate. For example, Stevens' needed consistency across the News Events sliders, so these are actually shared as HTML and consumed by a custom Panels plugin. Other data have looser restrictions and are shared as Drupal nodes, enabling client sites to use the nodes in Views, Panels, or Display Suite as needed. Drupal Connect also created a system of roles, permissions, and workflows to let Stevens manage certain content centrally, but still ensured School and Department autonomy.
The APIs and Content Sharing removed a significant maintenance burden and opened-up new possibilities for sharing news and events across the sites. The benefits are easiest to see in the cross-listed courses and faculty, but are interwoven throughout the sites.
Migrating onto Drupal
Drupal Connect migrated hundreds of legacy pages from multiple technology platforms using our Flatfish library. By using Flatfish, we were able to avoid messy 64-bit Oracle database support issues and start the migration work almost immediately.
By intelligently migrating all of the old content into the new Drupal sites, Stevens was able to review and curate the content over the course of several weeks — something that would have been an impossibility in their old systems.