Last month, Ithaca College introduced the first version of what will represent the biggest change to the college’s website technology, design, content, and structure in more than a decade—a redesigned and rebuilt site that’s more visually appealing and easier to use.
Over the past year, the college and its partners Four Kitchens and design firm Beyond have been hard at work within a Team Augmentation capacity to support the front-to-back overhaul of Ithaca.edu to better serve the educational and community goals of Ithaca’s students, faculty, and staff. The results of the team’s efforts can be viewed at https://www.ithaca.edu.
Founded in 1892, Ithaca College is a residential college dedicated to building knowledge and confidence through a continuous cycle of theory, practice, and performance. Home to some 6,500 students, the college offers more than 100 degree programs in its schools of Business, Communications, Humanities and Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Performance, and Music.
Students, faculty, and staff at Ithaca College create an active, inclusive community anchored in a keen desire to make a difference in the local community and the broader world. The college is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly schools in the country, and one of the top 10 colleges in the Northeast.
We emphasized applying automation and continuous integration to focus the team on the efficient development of creative and easy to test solutions.
On the backend, the team—including members of Ithaca’s dev org working alongside Four Kitchens—built a Drupal 8 site. The transition to Drupal 8 keeps the focus on moving the college to current technology for sustainable success. Four Kitchens emphasized applying automation and continuous integration to focus the team on the efficient development of creative and easy to test solutions. To achieve that, the team set up automation in Circle CI 2.0 as middleware between the GitHub repository and hosting in Pantheon. GitHub was used throughout the project to implement, automate, and optimize visual regression, advanced communication between systems and a solid workflow using throughout the project to ensure fast and effective release cycles. Learn from the experiences obtained from implementing the automation pipeline in the following posts:
- Running CircleCI Builds on many Repositories
- Deploying to Pantheon using CircleCI
- Continuous Integration Nirvana: Tricks to Reach Heavenly Automation
The frontend focused heavily on the Atomic Design approach. The frontend team utilized Emulsify and Pattern Lab to facilitate pattern component-based design and architecture. This again fostered long-term ease of use and success for Ithaca College.
The team worked magic with content migration. Using the brainchild of Web Chef, David Diers, the team devised a plan to migrate of portions of the site one by one. Subsites corresponding to schools or departments were moved from the legacy CMS to special Pantheon multidevs that were built off the live environment. Content managers then performed a moderated adaptation and curation process to ensure legacy content adhered to the new content model. A separate migration process then imported the content from the holding environment into the live site. This process allowed Ithaca College’s many content managers to thoroughly vet the content that would live on the new site and gave them a clear path to completion. Learn more about migrating using Paragraphs here: Migrating Paragraphs in Drupal 8.
Steady scrum rhythm, staying agile, and consistently improving along the way.
In addition to the stellar dev work, a large contributor to the project’s success was establishing a steady scrum rhythm, staying agile, and consistently improving along the way. Each individual and unit solidified into a team through daily 15-minute standups, weekly backlog grooming meetings, weekly ‘Developer Showcase Friday’ meetings, regular sprint planning meetings, and biweekly retrospective meetings. This has been such a shining success the internal Ithaca team plans to carry forward this rhythm even after the Web Chefs’ engagement is complete.
Engineering and Development Specifics
- Drupal 8 site hosted on Pantheon Elite, with the canonical source of code being GitHub and CircleCI 2.0 as Continuous Integration and Delivery platform
- Hierarchical and decoupled architecture based mainly on the use of group entities (Group module) and entity references that allowed the creation of subsite-like internal spaces.
- Selective use of configuration files through the utilization of custom and contrib solutions like Config Split and Config Ignore modules, to create different database projections of a shared codebase.
- Migration process based on 2 migration groups with an intermediate holding environment for content moderation.
- Additional migration groups support the indexing of not-yet-migrated, raw legacy content for Solr search, and the events thread, brought through our Localist integration.
- Living style guide for site editors by integrating twig components with Drupal templates
- Automated Visual Regression
A well-deserved round of kudos goes to the team. As a Team Augmentation project, the success of this project was made possible by the dedicated work and commitment to excellence from the Ithaca College project team. The leadership provided by Dave Cameron as Ithaca Product Manager, Eric Woods as Ithaca Technical Lead and Architect, and John White as Ithaca Dev for all things legacy system related was crucial in the project’s success. Ithaca College’s Katherine Malcuria, Senior Digital User Interface Designer, led the creation of design elements for the website.
Ithaca Dev Michael Sprague, Web Chef David Diers, Architect, as well as former Web Chef Chris Ruppel, Frontend Engineer, also stepped in for various periods of time on the project. At the tail end of the project Web Chef, Brian Lewis, introduced a new baby Web Chef to the world, therefore the amazing Randy Oest, Senior Designer and Frontend Engineer, stepped in to assist in pushing this to the finish line from a front-end dev perspective. James Todd, Engineer, pitched in as ‘jack of all trades’ connoisseur helping out where needed.
The Four Kitchens Team Augmentation team for the Ithaca College project was led by Brandy Jackson, Technical Project Manager, playing the roles of project manager, scrum master, and product owner interchangeably as needed. Joel Travieso, Senior Drupal Engineer, was the technical lead, backend developer, and technical architect. Brian Lewis, Frontend Engineer, meticulously worked magic in implementing intricate design elements that were provided by the Ithaca College design team, as well a 3rd party design firm, Beyond, at different parts of the project.
A final round of kudos goes out to the larger Ithaca project team, from content, to devOps, to quality assurance, there are too many to name. A successful project would not have been possible without their collective efforts as well.
The success of the Ithaca College Website is a great example of excellent team unity and collaboration across multiple avenues. These coordinated efforts are a true example of the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work.” Congratulations to all for a job well done!
Special thanks to Brandy Jackson for her contribution to this launch announcement.