New Texas State Site

Today at work we launched the new Texas State University website. While the site looks pretty nice, you can’t really see a good number of the interesting bits I’ve worked on. Here are a few highlights of the new site:

  • Events are automatically rendered both to the home page and to vCal files. This makes it possible to click on a link to download the event into iCal or Outlook.
  • We integrated results from the faculty/staff/student directory with the web search. You can see how that works if you search for mcmains on the new site.
  • Because our existing search engine is a bit on the stinky side, I wrote a set of classes to abstract the communication with the search engine from the actual presentation of the results. This will make it easy to throw out the existing search engine and replace it with something better while insulating visitors from the change.
  • Contact data is also rendered into vCard format, allowing you to download contacts to Address Book or Outlook.
  • Jeff Snider wrote a super-sweet apache caching module, which not only keeps serving content if the backend servers fail, but also maintains a complete chronological record of our web content. As a result, if things break in the afternoon, we can easily roll back to the version of the site that was being displayed in the morning.
  • It’s all being served out of a Vignette content management system, with a lot of industrial-strength infrastructure. I’m still not altogether convinced that Vignette adds a ton of value over what the University already had in place, but we’re pretty well committed to it for the moment. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot of complexity to this system.

It’s nice to have finally reached this milestone, and to be able to start thinking about other things. (Though we’re not out of the woods yet — I’ve already gotten two bug reports since we launched at noon.)