Strategic Vision – Web Infrastructure

Current Website Landscape

The current website landscape has been established over the last 20 years by creating over 800 independent websites and collecting them across multiple servers and platforms to act as Purdue.edu. The sites were created and are maintained by various communication and development teams without any central management or coordination. This has resulted in a disconnected experience with the overall site mirroring the organizational structure of the university, which makes it difficult for outside visitors to find the information relevant to their needs.

The distributed nature of the current websites also makes it difficult for the university to comply with various privacy and accessibility laws, establishing legal risks. The risk is compounded due to a lack of a documented review process, resulting in outdated and duplicated content throughout the site.

The physical hosting of Purdue’s websites in a campus data center also adds risk to the university. The on campus data center creates a single physical point of failure in the event of a natural disaster or complete system failure at the West Lafayette campus, which would result in communication disruption during an emergency.

The “Next Giant Leap” in Purdue’s Web Strategy

Based on the current web landscape, Purdue is not prepared to address the rapidly changing expectations of online audiences. In order to remain competitive in the digital world, the following changes are going to be implemented as part of Purdue Marketing and Media’s digital engagement initiative.

Establish Individual Web Systems

Each department needs to inventory their systems and determine who and how each system is being used. Systems that are used internally or provide a service outside of marketing/promoting the university, should be evaluated and placed on the “best” platform as defined by the system owner. The individual systems will remain the responsibility of the department or college to maintain, but they must meet university standards related to online systems.

  • ADA (Level AA) compliance
  • Documented process to comply with GDPR, CCPA and other applicable privacy laws
  • Coding standards as defined by software development group responsible for the web application

Moving forward, these systems will operate independently of the primary Purdue website. As such, they must either live on an appropriately named SUBDOMAIN or a NON-Purdue.edu domain if they operate outside the umbrella of the university.

Marketing Purdue Online (www.purdue.edu)

Purdue’s primary marketing website will be migrated to a single content management system (CMS) built on the Drupal platform and hosted within a cloud environment. The migration to a new single system will allow the university to address many of the issues present in the current environment.

  • Enforce a more strategic communication strategy based on audience types and not organizational units
  • Increase the ability to comply with applicable privacy and accessibility laws
  • Single system prevents path conflicts and forces groups to coordinate updates
  • Physical redundancy to allow for system uptime guarantees

During the transition to a single primary website, the university must also establish updated procedures to prevent the recreation of the current landscape.

  • Annual review process so each page is updated or removed to maintain content relevancy and accuracy
  • Establish multiple conversion opportunities so visitors can transition from anonymous to known, while only providing the minimum required information based on their stage in the customer journey
  • Build additional systems to support the needs of Labs, Centers and campaign specific activities

Why switch to Drupal?

There has been extensive debate on the decision to switch CMS to Drupal from the current university standard, Cascade. Several key factors led to the decision to switch, primarily focused on the ability to scale resources to handle the size of the migration project. Other factors include:

  • Selecting a new platform, requires that the communication teams evaluate all the content being migrated and update to meet current brand voice
  • Drupal is built using PHP, which is the coding language used by most of the existing 800+ websites, which reduces the training requirements for our current web developers
  • Library of available training materials is readily available to help end users and developers prepare for the transition
  • Supports multiple permission levels and workflows, with logging in order to hold users accountable for any change
  • Modules allows for the additional functionality to be added without dedicated development resources, reducing time to deploy
  • Proven system with the ability to handle the traffic volume of purdue.edu

The Migration Plan

The recreation of the Purdue’s primary website into Drupal requires the coordination of Purdue Marketing and Media and every group on campus that currently has a website under the purdue.edu umbrella. In order to successfully complete this process in a timely manner, a project plan is being created that details each step and assigns responsibility to relevant parties. The following outline is the foundation of the project plan.

  1. Establish cloud-based hosting of a Drupal instance based on the following requirements
    • 24/7 performance monitoring with 99.99% SLA or higher
    • Daily backups of all environments
    • All pages secured with WAF, SSL, etc.Connects to emergency notification system
    • Isolated Dev, QA and Production environments, including ability for developers to have local environment if desired
    • Supports build process that allows for automated unit testing
    • Connects to approved/whitelisted SMTP server for all email delivery
  2. Identify data types to be stored in CMS
  3. Design and develop page templates based on data types
  4. Establish a content migration plan for each audience and section of the new site
  5. Execute and revise content migration strategy for content controlled by central marketing and campus partner volunteers
  6. As content migration occurs, update onsite F5 firewall to direct appropriate traffic to new site
  7. Provide migration plan and assistance to remaining campus partners
  8. Once a majority of sites have been migrated to primary website or transitioned to independent web applications, update DNS to remove F5 control over primary website