Colorado Mesa University (CMU) is a public university located in Grand Junction, Colorado, with additional locations, including a Bishop Campus and a Montrose Campus. The university offers associate, undergraduate, and graduate degree programs, including doctoral degrees. Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, CMU currently reports an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students.
Prior to switching to Cascade CMS in 2015, the university managed the website through a combination of Dreamweaver and Adobe Contribute. While this setup worked fine for basic editing, it didn’t provide the benefits of an enterprise CMS, such as the ability to have many content contributors, to share content between pages, sites, and platforms, to output a single piece of content in as many different formats as needed, and to put safeguards in place for non technical users. Licensing was restricted, and any content that was not purely text-based or image-based had to be hard-coded onto each page, resulting in bottlenecks. Furthermore, since Dreamweaver and the university’s network didn’t play well together, the webmaster had to save the website to their desktop and run it from there, which clearly was a risk to high availability. It became clear that CMU needed to find a new CMS, which would not just solve the existing problems, but also be scalable and accommodate the university’s website for years to come.
A new CMS is no small investment, so the members of the evaluation committee collaborated on an extensive RFP process. Five vendors responded to the RFP, and the responses were evaluated on a point system based on a number of criteria, such as functionality of the CMS, pricing, user-friendliness, and the ability to support CMU’s desired outcomes. After scoring each response, the evaluation team narrowed the selection down to two finalists before choosing Cascade CMS, as it was the most complete and affordable solution for the university.
Andrea Keck, the University’s Digital Communications Manager, spearheaded the transition to Cascade CMS. In collaboration with Hannon Hill’s Professional Services team, the university’s website was implemented in Cascade CMS with maximum content reuse and a minimum involvement of technical resources in mind. Within just a few weeks, the main website was integrated in the new CMS, along with a calendar and faculty and staff directory. Users had multiple templates to choose from when creating new pages. Even though the university’s web team consisted of only one member at the time, the project was completed on time and within budget. The university quickly grew the user base to 210 content contributors across campus. The web team offers basic training for new users once a month and has set up a knowledge base for users to reference whenever needed.
Switching to Cascade CMS has had many impacts that positively benefited the team, according to Andrea Keck. Above all, knowing that the website is now managed in an enterprise system with all of the guardrails and disaster recovery options it provides has given the university peace of mind.
In addition to growing the number of CMS users across campus, the change to Cascade CMS has given users much more flexibility and autonomy. Non-technical contributors can now create pages with multiple columns, accordion panels, and other layouts on the fly, without needing to involve the web team for hard-coding these features. Similarly, users now have more control over their site navigation (which previously had to be updated manually), have better access to files on the site, and can enjoy the ability to edit in a development environment instead of production.
“On the big picture side”, said Keck, “it allowed us to reuse content for things such as faculty profiles and news articles so we didn’t have to manually add them to multiple pages every time a new piece of content was created.” The go to market time of new content is only a fraction of what it used to be, as all bottlenecks have been eliminated.
Because of the fact that Cascade CMS requires so little training for end users, the web team can now focus on more strategic training sessions, which includes topics such as writing for the web, accessibility best practices, and SEO. Last year, the team ran a “Take 10” campaign, which was intended to encourage content contributors to spend an extra ten minutes a week working on a specific task, such as removing unused documents.
Additional Cascade CMS Projects of Note
In July, CMU rolled out a redesigned site. One of the major enhancements was the creation of a new custom page, which allows users to create visual pages in any configuration without needing to add any code. Some of the components that users can add include card and panel groups and grids, callouts, sliders, alerts, people lists/cards, pricing lists, videos, intros with tasks buttons, and hidden content.
The web team also created the Maverick Network, a Hulu-esque video platform targeting recruitment and retention. They also used Cascade CMS to build the user interface of the touch screen kiosks for Admissions Welcome Center.
About the experience so far
When asked about the university’s experience with Hannon Hill and Cascade CMS so far, Andrea Keck said:
“At the time of implementation I was a web team of one and I’m a little more on the marketing side than the developer side. We went with the QuickStart package and it was awesome. It allowed us to get up and running with the site without me trying to learn Velocity during the implementation of a new software and website. Since our initial implementation, I’ve been able to dig into formats, the Cascade exchange and receive support from Hannon Hill and other users to build out new sections of our site. Hannon Hill support and customer service is truly amazing, which isn’t always the case with tech companies so it is truly appreciated. Over the next year we are looking to really enhance features of our site including our faculty directory (and adding staff to it as well), program search, filtered data tables (for things like summer camps, etc). Expanding personalization across the site; we’ve done some with Google optimize and are continuing to explore options there and with Clive.”