A new look CS website

A little over 3 years ago I posted about the reskin the Computer Science website at the University of Kent had just received. Well, we’re there again, although we’re now called the School of Computing.

I’ve been working on this project for the last few months. It started out with some meetings with the Information Services web team. They talked us through their current systems and then did a good job of selling their new system (which later became known as Pantheon). We decided to go with the new one, but hit a slight snag – it wasn’t quite written yet.

After a bit of waiting we finally got our hands on the code and I began the integration work. Although we’re deploying their system, we’re running our own copy of it on our servers. This is a good mix; it keeps us in sync with the central web development, but allows us to maintain the flexibility we’ve had for years. So this first integration step was a little slow, and it took some lengthy IRC conversations and a session around my desk to finally get it sorted.

Over the next month or so I spent more time tying this in to our system. I found various bugs and issues with the code and fed my fixes back to the development team where necessary. I also tried to bring across the look from our blog, and sorted out the configuration and menu structures. Then, with a working system in place, and new theme from the web team called Bacchus, I was ready to do the final integration step – tying it in to our existing build system.

At this point time was becoming more of an issue. We could have just chucked all our old ways of doing this out of the window. This might have been less effort for me, but it would have been more for everyone else. The decision was made to stick with our old infrastructure and tie the new system in to our templates. This didn’t turn out to be too hard, and only took a couple of weeks to complete.

What we’re left with is an interesting system. Our build scripts take user generated content and wrap them up with our templates to generate a HTML file. Then, at runtime, this HTML file (which contains special markup) is fed through the Pantheon system which uses the Bacchus template to render the final page. So we’ve got a baked and fried system all in one :D.

The final step was a week long effort to rebuild pages and tweak the various build scripts and jobs to generate reasonable looking and valid XHTML pages. This was more tedious than technical I suppose, but a satisfying finaly step to the project. Then the work passed over to our web editors to start reorganising and rebuilding the content.

And there we have it – the new Computer Science website. Just don’t dig too deep or you’ll find the pages we haven’t finished with yet :-).

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