On the second floor of E Building, signs on doors indicate the locations of the various teams: Team ESE, Team ESSB, Team EUR. Each room is full of fast-typing employees. Some seventy people are building EUR’s new website here. It is being prepared for today’s modern technology: it will be easy to use on mobile devices (which is to say it will be ‘fully responsive’, in web designer industry jargon), it will be able to be used by people with visual impairment and it will be easier to find.
Work on the new website commenced in April. The site will go live in December, circumstances permitting. This means the migration teams do not have much time. “We are under considerable pressure, but in a way, this is a good thing. It allows us to make decisions more quickly,” says the project leader, Hans Pleysier. And because they are under so much pressure, they have a nice budget: a few million euros.
No longer safe
It is a good thing the teams work fast, because the current website is no longer safe. After the site was hacked last year, it turned out to contain a large quantity of privacy-sensitive information. This has been removed by now, but the software used to keep the website up and running, called Typo3, is still hopelessly out of date. “This is because Typo3 was never technically managed by the ICT department. Furthermore, in the course of time, extensions to the software were implemented by all sorts of people within the university. These extensions can no longer be controlled once you upgrade software to a safer version,” Pleysier explains.
Therefore, the old software will be discarded and EUR will switch to a new software package, called Drupal. “And we will stick to the basic package, without adding too much functionality ourselves, to prevent running into the same problem we did with Typo3,” Pleysier promises.
The overall budget includes €2 million earmarked for ‘content migration’, i.e., transferring all the available information to the new website. “Initially, we believed that we would have to do it all manually, but thankfully, there is no need for that,” says Pleysier. “As a result, we will probably remain under budget.”
Nevertheless, it is an enormous job. “We started in August with eighty thousand web pages. We are currently checking every single one of these,” says Stefan Groen of the Marketing and Communications department, who is ultimately responsible for the content migration. “Each page is inspected at least three times: by an editor, by an editor-in-chief, and by a content owner.” The content owner is the member of a faculty or department to whom the web page concerned belongs. In the end, it is this person who decides whether the information is relevant and up to date, and who will issue a recommendation: remove the page, keep it or edit it. “In this way, we have already reduced the list of 80,000 to just 13,000 pages,” says Groen.
Reference work no more
In other words, over 60,000 pages will disappear, and not just pages containing outdated information, either. “A lot of people currently use the website as a reference work, or as an archive. That is not the role it should be playing,” says Groen. “For instance, we discovered a page listing all [EUR] students who had obtained a PhD since 1957. This sort of information will be taken down.” In addition, the teams will migrate information that is mainly for internal use, such as the directory and pages for academic staff, from the public website to the new Intranet, called MyEUR.
In order to prevent a new accumulation of outdated and hard-to-find information following the data migration, the way in which the website is edited will be professionalised. “Editors representing all faculties and parts of the organisation will meet regularly to discuss sound agreements, work processes and guidelines. In principle, the Marketing and Communications department will supervise this process, by supplying expertise, among other things.”