Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (GU-Q) hosts a dual language, Arabic and English website with 1800+ indexed pages and 800+ publications on the website. Their previous Keybridge Systems Cold Fusion based website suffered from declining performance, lagging speed and an obsolete architecture, on an outdated back-end that was difficult to manage and update. This provided for an ineffective and poor quality user experience and it created difficulties for site editors and administrators.
After a full website audit, it was determined that a complete redevelopment and restructuring of the website was appropriate for the future needs of the campus. GU-Q partnered with Vardot for the complete rebuild of their website from scratch, starting with a remodel of the front-end design in accordance with Georgetown University brand guidelines, a restructuring of the information architecture and a complete back-end rebuild on Drupal CMS.
Why Drupal was chosen
Drupal was chosen because GU-Q needed a flexible and scalable content management system that could handle a large number of pages (2,000+), content types, and permission levels, while providing flexibility for users and editors alike.
Additional factors included the large number of high-quality community contributed modules and integrations with third-party software systems.
Goals and requirements
The mission was to build an SEO-optimized, high-performance university portal that could handle a large number of pages and a high volume of traffic. In addition, the site needed to be mobile enhanced with a responsive layout, integrated with an external authentication system, provide advanced search capabilities to help structure and organize over 800 publications within the website, and finally to have a flexible layout manager to help manage the website easily and place events and news content on different pages of the website.
Vardot built a university portal that was user friendly and accessible for all web audiences, including current students, faculty, prospective students, alumni, parents, employees and researchers. After conducting an extensive audit of the old website, Vardot traveled to the Qatar campus to meet and interview various members of the GU-Q community including teaching faculty, administrative staff, students and other website users. While in Qatar, workshops were conducted during the week to better understand the needs of each audience segment. Afterwards an information architecture strategy was developed for the design of the new website, which enabled Vardot to provide a better experience for the different user segments of the website. Students and parents were provided a far quicker way to find relevant information on the website through dedicated pages for their needs, and an extensive mega-menu that was created to help users navigate through a broad range of content quickly.
An employee microsite was created for the internal audience which can be accessed using a Single Sign-On ID integrated with an external identity solution through the Shibboleth Drupal Login Handler which allows users to securely sign-in with their GU-Q ID, from any device.
The Biblio module was integrated for managing publications on the website, and GU-Q social media and YouTube channels were integrated into the website to pull the latest videos and social posts to the front page and other sections. News and calendar events were aggregated from the website and embedded into the Georgetown Mobile app. Both public events and academic calendars on the website were equipped with the ability to be added and synchronized with the user’s personal calendar through iCal feeds.
A flexible drag-and-drop layout manager was also built into this project, making the process of updating and adding content a simple task that can be completed by people with minimal technical background in minutes. In addition to that, more than 20 pre-loaded page layouts are also available and can be applied to pages and for all content types. The site is also optimized for all screen sizes, all modern-browsers, and all mobile operating systems.
Site wide search functions make all content easily discoverable. In the publication section you can look up any paper by name, type, conference, year, or tag. Similarly, expert profiles in the website can be searched by language, expertise, country, and name. News can be filtered by category or easily embedded on the homepage with a single click.
Performance for the site was tremendously improved on Drupal 7. Varnish was integrated for better caching, and the university home page with a lot of images and content loads extremely fast. SEO optimizations helped with the discoverability of the site and the user experience for viewers: both the time-on-site and page view count have increased significantly with the new site. All of this helped rank the new GU-Q website higher, helping the campus in Qatar attract new students and employee talents while better serving their existing community of students, faculty and the general public.
Users may visit the completed sites at:
Center Microsite English: http://cirs.georgetown.edu/
Center Microsite Arabic: http://cirs.georgetown.edu/ar