Department of Physics, University of Oxford
The University of Oxford Department of Physics aspires to be one of the best physics departments in the world with their cutting edge research, advanced experimental techniques and the most sophisticated theoretical methods to investigate nature at every scale. They needed a fresh looking and modern website which catered for their very diverse audience and range of functionality it would be used for.
The department had a large and diverse web presence, with the main website built and maintained by their central IT team, while other areas were built and maintained by individuals around the department, and often had a completely different look and feel. The new website needed to provide a single, common web solution framework, with a powerful content management system (CMS).
The site needed to serve and appeal to academics, administrators, current and potential students, support staff, potential applicants, donors, teachers and the general public. The functionality had to encompass information exchange externally and internally, tools to develop the web presence of the department’s members, a platform to support web applications, and more.
We interviewed both the IT team and stakeholders from around the department, to ensure everyone’s requirements were fully understood, and drew up a long list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for the new website.
We then researched a wide variety of open source and commercial CMSs and frameworks to determine which was the best fit, and eventually settled on Drupal, a popular open source CMS.
Simultaneously, we worked with the designers to create the new website design and information architecture, ready to be implemented in the CMS.
We then worked closely with the IT team to build the website in Drupal, providing project management as well as development expertise to the team. The site was developed in phases, in order to minimise the time taken to launch each new feature. We paid particular attention to the usability of the system, since a large number of untrained users would be using the system.
The site was built in Drupal, with a large number of additional modules providing functionality. We also wrote our own modules to add functionality that was not already available.
The site integrates with the department’s Active Directory server for authentication, so users don’t have to register again, or remember another username and password.
Rather than rewriting all of their legacy ASP and ASP.NET systems at once, we opted to re-skin them to match the new site, and run them in parallel until they are replaced. This greatly reduced the cost and time required to get the site up and running, while making them look like part of the new website.
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