One of the primary goals of the Refresh project is to select and implement a content management system (CMS) for core pages within the www.utexas.edu directory structure. Since September, we have been engaged in a research and evaluation process which started with the development of criteria and an initial list of candidates, followed by a requirements definition phase and final evaluation.
Today we would like to announce that we have selected Drupal as the Refresh CMS.
Here is an excerpt from our final report describing Drupal and some of the determining characteristics that helped drive our decision:
Drupal was found to meet nearly all of the project’s documented high-level requirements, either through core functionality or available contributed modules. Two requirements identified early on as critical to the success of this project were configurable workflows and scalability through high-availability caching. We determined that Drupal fulfills both of these requirements using off-the-shelf free and open source modules.
In the specific case of high-availability caching, there is a third-party module called Boost that allows specified pages on a Drupal site to be stored as HTML and/or compressed (gzip) HTML, eliminating the overhead of PHP processing and the database backend as a dependencies for content. For static Web Central content, this will allow us to have the benefits of a CMS without the risk of overloading the system with high traffic.
Since the Drupal project is deeply committed to the open source philosophy, there is a very large community of developers who are continually contributing new functionality back to the Drupal ecosystem either through contributed modules, or patches to the core product itself. Additionally, there are a growing number of companies offering commercial consulting, training, and support services for Drupal.
Based on our research, Drupal may have the widest adoption throughout the higher-education community of any of our initial seven candidate systems, perhaps challenged only by WordPress for its ubiquity and momentum. In addition to many schools (including UT Austin) that have been using Drupal at the departmental level, prominent institutions such as Duke and Rutgers have recently moved their main pages to Drupal.
The WTT already has extensive experience with Drupal, both in terms of the underlying technologies (PHP, MySQL) and the package itself. Since 2008, we have deployed two departmental site redesigns using Drupal, and have consulted with several other departments as they have begun using Drupal for their own sites. We have found it to work well for content contributors who are not technical experts, and most new users have required a minimal amount of training in order to start managing their own content.
The next steps for the CMS effort will be to set up a development environment in which we can start implementing high-level system requirements such as authentication, authorization, workflow, and caching.
In the spring of 2010, we will start working with content owners and the Information Architecture working group to implement page wireframes as Drupal content-types, as well as executing the eventual design as a Drupal theme. We expect to launch the redesigned site in fall 2010.
To learn more about our research and evaluation process, please take a look at the CMS Evaluation Final Report.