For years, most of the corporate website has been produced as static web pages using Dreamweaver. This has worked well – we’re able to ensure the design is tight, content correct and the site doesn’t grow to an unmanageable size.
To help manage content on the site, Web Services have produced a few key applications – news, eProspectus, job vacancies for example – and while they’ve worked great for each area, integration with the corporate site hasn’t gone much further than matching the template and manually linking between the static content and the dynamic applications.
With the Big Brief we’ve had the chance to build dynamic web applications into the core of the website. Instead of being an add on, our main website is dynamic and existing content is linked in. This allows pages on the site to fully embed content – for example we can have news and events on the homepage, or Faculty sites can list the courses they offer.
For the corporate website we’ve extended our use of the symfony web framework. We’ve been using symfony for about 18 months, first for Education Partnership, then the Hi applicant website and the GO portal. I’ve posted before about some of the advantages it gives us, but it’s developed significantly over the last year and we’re starting to really see some of the benefits in terms of consistent coding standards, making use of plugins so that we’re not reinventing the wheel and allowing us to rapidly build new systems that integrate with the rest of the website.
Introducing symfony to the core of the corporate website is just the first step in making it more dynamic. We’re working on allowing visitors to the site to login to gain access to more personalised information, not just for staff and students, but for applicants, partners and other users of the site. The applications we’ve developed will allow dynamic content to be spread around the site – for example courses for a department, news feeds or relevant events.
In the next couple of posts we’ll be talking about some of the applications you’ll see on the site and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll talk some more about future plans!