Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. However, for medium to large colleges and universities, we recommend Hannon Hill’s Cascade CMS (content management system). Here are five reasons why: 1. Cascade CMS Allows Us to Implement our “Smart Page Builder”. The traditional way to build a website is using page templates. However, when constructing large websites with many schools and departments, Elliance has developed a lego-style assembly of building blocks to create customized pages. We’ve extended the Cascade CMS to construct a “Smart Page Builder” tool which combines building blocks to create all website pages easily and cost-effectively via a single interface. In sharp contrast to template-based websites, this gives our clients the flexibility to create custom layouts as needed for various parts of the website. This dramatically reduces … Continue reading

Posted in: ,

Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. Occasionally, we are asked to make a recommendation on whether to build the higher education website in Drupal or WordPress, especially if the client can’t afford to invest in a commercial grade CMS. Here is our take on this important question. The Origin Story Matters To answer this question, it is important to look back at the origin stories of WordPress and Drupal. At the dawn of the age of user-generated content and the death of authoritative voices, WordPress was started as a DIY blogging platform for everyone. It was designed to be an easy, point-click-and-start-publishing web platform that enabled anyone, irrespective of their technical knowhow, to share their opinions and passions. In contrast, Drupal was created as an open-source content management … Continue reading

Posted in: ,

As discussed in a previous blog post, we recently redesigned the Carnegie Mellon Today online magazine. With this redesign, the focus changed from a print-based quarterly issue to an online-only site with new stories both produced and promoted on a weekly basis. With roughly 80% of existing site traffic coming to articles (a number that is expected to increase with this new model), one of our project goals was to create an explorable experience that engages readers and increases the flow of traffic through the site. Keeping that in mind, we set out with a few ideas. A website’s navigation is it’s roadmap. It is the best place to start engaging the audience. We also know that it is the most popular way to explore. Like most navigations, ours is visible and consistent throughout all of the site, however, it becomes minified as readers scroll through articles, creating less busyness on the page while still keeping the navigation close by … Continue reading

Posted in: ,

In my last blog post, I discussed the three types of CMS systems: Proprietary CMS systems, Commercial CMS systems and Open-source CMS systems. Which begs the question, which type of CMS system should a higher education institution purchase? The answer depends on your size, need for flexibility, in-house teams, budgets and risk-management. While there is no single answer to this question, some guidelines might help think through this delicate choice. I am breaking my guidelines on the size of college. Tiny Colleges and Universities (less than 1,000 students) I would classify any school with marketing budgets less than $200,000 as a tiny college/university. Specialty Schools that offer few niche degrees fall into this category. Typically tiny schools don’t really have Web/IT teams and have a single person who updates the website and helps marketing out with most of its projects. For tiny schools, it makes sense to establish a relationship with a boutique agency which offers a Proprietary CMS system … Continue reading

Posted in:

Higher education clients often ask us for guidance on content management system (CMS). They are wondering if they should work with a web development company that offers a proprietary CMS system, a commercial CMS system, or an open-source CMS system. In this blog post, I’ll define the three types of systems: Proprietary CMS Systems These are developed, maintained and supported by boutique shops such as BarkleyREI, Whitewhale and others. Typically, clients will inherit them as part of the web site development project, will pay an annual licensing fee, and turn to them for customization and version upgrades. You can’t really find talent in the open market to enhance these systems and you typically don’t have access to the source code for making any changes to the system. For better or for worse, you are essentially locked into that relationship with the boutique. Commercial CMS Systems These systems are developed, maintained and supported by companies solely focused on the CMS systems. … Continue reading

Posted in: ,