It's a Wrap! Takeaways from the 2012 Cascade Server User Conference

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 3:00pm -- Kat Liendgens

Our seventh annual Cascade Server User Conference has officially become another chapter in the Hannon Hill history book. What an amazing event it was! Our user conference is always a highlight for us, since we get to spend face-to-face time with our customers and partners and discuss ideas for new product features. It’s both rewarding and inspiring to see all of the ways in which our customers are leveraging Cascade Server. And, of course, since we are quite a social bunch, we always cherish the fun activities with our Cascade community. This year, we particularly enjoyed our SCVNGR challenge and the team trivia, where things got a little competitive...

Here are some of the things that I took away from this year’s event:

  • Mobile takes planning. Chris Cox’s presentation on Responsive Web Design was extremely well received. Chris explained what to consider prior to deciding between a mobile site or a responsive one. One of the most important points he made was that whether you are implementing RWD or a separate mobile site, it pays off to spend time upfront and gather requirements, identify goals and objectives, and thoroughly plan your design around your content. In addition, map out how your content contributors will be managing your mobile content. As far as Cascade Server is concerned, Data Definitions make it easy to design responsive sites by allowing users to specify the pieces of content that feed the various locations in the design. The bottom line is that it’s best to plan your mobile user’s experience around the content pieces that they’re looking for and looking at, which is why it’s crucial to invest in a solid mobile strategy before you jump into the design.
  • Content Strategy is gaining momentum. Now that everybody understands that Content is King, the value of implementing a content strategy can’t be overestimated. While the organizations that already have a content strategy in place were still in the minority, it was great to see that an increasing number of universities had recognized the need and were in the process of developing a strategy. Given the considerable investment that higher education organizations continue to make in both technology (CMS, analytics) and human resources (web team, content managers and contributors) in order to manage their websites, it only makes sense to dedicate sufficient time to developing a strategy for their content.
  • Spectate has arrived. Speaking of content strategy, as our VP of Engineering, Bradley Wagner, pointed out in his roadmap presentation, these days “Every content contributor is a marketer”. This is one of the reasons why early last year, we decided to provide you with Spectate, a tool that went beyond content management and empowered your marketers to more effectively promote their content and measure the effectiveness (and, ultimately, ROI) of their content. As you know, Spectate comes free of charge with Cascade Server (in case you’re wondering why, please feel free to check out one of our previous posts). It was fantastic to see so much interest in Spectate and so many new sign-ups during the conference. Keep them coming!
  • Cassies are coveted. This year, we held our second annual Cassie awards ceremony. We added a few new categories, such as the Lifetime Achievement Cassie (which went to Erik Gorka for having attended each and every Cascade Server user conference), Head of the Class (for the fastest learner), and Best Implementation of Responsive Design. Just like last year, our master of ceremonies, Chris Armistead, pulled out all the stops. For a complete list of winners, watch out for one of our upcoming posts.
  • Cascade Server users love to share. The Cascade Server community continues to grow and thrive. One of my favorite things about our community is that our customers love to share their experiences, their ideas, their resources, and even their code, and the conference was a beautiful reflection of everybody’s openness and desire to collaborate. The focus groups were very well attended and gave us a ton of fresh and valuable ideas. In-between sessions, we saw a lot of discussions about new and creative ways to leverage the power of Cascade Server, as well as an active exchange of contact information between customers. We’re on the same page when it comes to sharing, so keep an eye out for our slides and our code examples, and help yourself to anything on our GitHub repository that you find useful.
  • Velocity gaining velocity. In order to give our customers maximum flexibility, we support both XSLT and Velocity for transformations. You can even use both languages on the same page. Penny Kronz, our Services Director, did a great job showcasing the differences between XLST and Velocity, and I saw quite a few tweets from people who decided that it was time to explore Velocity further, since it’s fairly easy and extremely powerful.
I would like to say a heartfelt Thank You to all of the attendees, the presenters, the sponsors and the Hannon Hill team for an amazing conference, and a special shout-out to Holly Wright, who managed the planning and execution from start to finish with poise, dedication, and creativity. Hope to see all of you next year!

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