The UM-Dearborn website is making the jump to Drupal 9

October 25, 2021

Content editors of the website, rejoice! An upgraded content management system is headed your way. Here’s why that matters (for all of us).

A graphic showing the UM-Dearborn home page displaying on a laptop
A graphic showing the UM-Dearborn home page displaying on a laptop
Graphic by Violet Dashi

For those of you who work as content editors for the UM-Dearborn website, you know that content management systems matter a lot. CMSs are the backend software platform you interact with on a near daily basis, as you strive to build smartly organized multimedia web pages that share vital information and stories about your part of the UM-Dearborn community. In almost every way, CMSs make routine tasks so much easier than the old days. In the pre-CMS era, even doing something simple, like creating a department web page or a news story, took some basic coding knowledge and maybe help from a web professional. With a modern CMS, anyone can quickly learn how to build and update great looking pages, without knowing a stitch of HTML. And that allows folks across the UM-Dearborn community to collectively share the role of creating our university website. Go team!

UM-Dearborn’s content management system is Drupal, a powerful open-source CMS that’s a favorite of educational and government institutions, and version 7 has served us well for many years. Next month, though, we’re making the jump to Drupal 9, which Web Strategy and Services Director Laura Garling says adds important new features that both content editors and public users of the website will notice.

Improved navigation is one of the Drupal 9-related upgrades Garling is most excited about. For example, a student visiting today’s version of the Undergraduate Admissions page would find a left-side navigation menu that contains nine different main menu options, e.g. “Incoming Freshman,” “Transfer Students,” “Admitted students,” “DearBORN Ready,” etc. In the new version, Garling says each of the main menu options has the ability to open a collapsible set of more specific options. Click or tap “Transfer Students,” for example, and you’ll now get a sub-menu of relevant topics, e.g. “Apply as a Transfer Student,” “Will My Courses Transfer?” and “Meet Your Counselors.” This lets folks find the most popular resources much more quickly, without having to dig through a web page.

Garling says content editors are also going to love the new creative potential of Drupal 9. For example, there’s going to be more flexibility for organizing multimedia content, including new options for image sizing and alignment and for embedding videos hosted on the university YouTube channel. And the interface our content editors interact with is more efficiently organized (for the CMS geeks out there, Garling describes it as “more Wordpressy”), giving editors the ability to tweak content and page settings from a single screen. One other cool feature: Editors can now share unpublished versions of pages or stories with colleagues so they can get feedback before their work goes live. “We tried to be really responsive to the kinds of things our editors were asking for, and I think in general, folks will login and immediately see they have options that will make their jobs easier,” Garling says. “The platform will still be recognizable, which is important — you don’t want to change everything at once. But I think this sets the stage for doing a lot of fun and interesting things on the website that we couldn't do before.” Garling says they’ll have drop-in training sessions and written documentation to help content editors make the transition.

Preparing for this upgrade has been a huge team effort, and everyone on UM-Dearborn’s small but mighty web team has played an important role. Garling says Karen McCullough, who started at UM-Dearborn in March, provided some essential fresh eyes, especially on visual aspects of the project. Christina Hu came back from an unexpected leave and immediately jumped in to help take the project over the finish line. And Adam Zehel, who’s the marketing and communications specialist for the College of Business, took on some extra hours with the web team, providing an essential “insider’s perspective,” given his usual role as a content editor. 

Look for signs of all their hard work when the Drupal 9-powered version of the UM-Dearborn website launches this November.

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Story by Lou Blouin

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