NYU Wagner is a public policy college within the New York University system, with graduate programs focused on Urban Planning, Nonprofit Management and Policy, Public Administration, and Public Policy. Wagner’s main goal in launching their new website is to draw in perspective students and help them find their way through a wide range of programs.
The NYU Wagner site is a forum for exploration, which helps to convey the unique attributes of each program and how it best suits the prospective student. The site also serves many groups of users such as current students, faculty, prospective students, and alumni. Creating a site that serves such distinct user groups was a hurdle that the team had to work through. Four Kitchens was originally asked to only work on the public facing site, which focused on prospective students. This made it difficult to meet the needs of all use cases. Eventually, we consulted on more than just the public facing site, including the areas for authenticated, logged-in, users only.
Spokes on a Wheel
Defining the content model
This project had a lot of moving parts. Four Kitchens was brought on as a Drupal expert to work on the newly released Drupal 8. The project already had designs and sitemaps for us to use in build phase. Once we started the project, our first major endeavor was working with the content structure. We found that the existing designs did not align to content types and did not match various use cases, which we discovered during the site audit. We needed to break down the designs and make them work in a cohesive content type structure. To solve this, we took the old site and categorized each page into a content type and then we assigned a design to each type. If a page didn’t fall into a content type, we would categorize the page by function, e.g., landing page, search page, view, etc.
Once the content modeling was completed, Randy Oest broke down components on each of the pages to find repeatability within the designs. This is called component based design, something the team at Four Kitchens are experts at. Some elements were ‘snowflakes’—meaning they are unique to a page/situation and not repeatable—but most of the time, Randy could come up with a similar design that worked for multiple use cases. Additionally, we assigned values to the components and we let the client decide what were the most important components to build within the allotted budget.
[NB: Make sure to check out Web Chef Evan Willhite’s video series on component-based design in Drupal 8!]
When Four Kitchens first scoped the project, NYU Wagner wanted to migrate the content themselves (both manually and through the D8 migration module). Once we started work, everyone realized that D8’s beta state would take someone with a lot of experience to work through the new migration modules kinks. On this project, we were able to manage content type changes and custom code fixes within the migration. Lead engineer, Allan Chappell, had several contributions to Drupal Core Migration, while working with Mike Ryan, the leader of Drupal’s migration initiative for Drupal Core. He also provided contributions to contributed modules Migrate Plus, Migrate Tools, and Drupal Upgrade. In all, the migration became a huge part of the project even though it was not part of the original scope. After migration was complete, the client agreed it was the best decision they made because it would have taken tons of people hours to complete the work Allan was able to do programmatically.
Slow Burn, Hot Site
This project was intended as a “slow burn build”—meaning we had a couple of developers working on the site over an extended period of time. Because Wagner had a different developer building out the user authenticated portion of the site, Four Kitchens was asked to consult on the roadblocks. Allan Chappell did a phenomenal job migrating content, which freed up resources and budget, and Randy Oest did a great job transforming designs he did not create. Once the project grew arms and legs, we realized that Four Kitchens would need to touch all of the properties of the site. We worked with the NYU team to make sure everything worked seamlessly. The new NYU Wagner D8 redesign site launched at the end of October.