The IU Web Framework began as a collaboration between IU Communications, UITS, and a committee of individuals from across IU campuses and schools. Earlier this year, several of the teams that contributed to the Framework reorganized under IU Studios, and a team was formalized to support the product and continue making regular updates and bug fixes.
Based on technical research over the last several months and feedback from framework users across IU, we see the need for a new version of the Web Framework that better meets user needs. This new version will be developed in conjunction with Rivet 2.0.
This document summarizes the reasons why we’re building a new website framework, how it addresses the challenges of the current version, and how professional staff that use the Web Framework can prepare and manage the impact on their units and partners.
What is the IU Web Framework?
The IU Web Framework is a tool for building IU-branded marketing and informational websites powered by IU’s Web Content Management System (WCMS). Created primarily for units with limited design or programming resources, the framework provides a web form-like interface where content contributors can plug text, pictures, and other media into premade page templates.
Why are we building a new framework?
On the back of conversations with both the marketing and web developer communities at IU, it’s clear that current Web Framework has a number of shortcomings that need to be addressed:
- Cumbersome to update. The behind-the-scenes structure of the current framework makes updating the code a time-consuming and error-prone process.
- Difficult to customize. Likewise, the structure of the current framework makes it difficult to create templates that fit specialized content units might want to publish. Customizing a site also often made updates significantly more difficult to apply.
- Incomplete documentation. Many parts of the current framework have inadequate documentation or no documentation at all.
- Inconsistent experience for IU’s constituents. Important elements of a web page, like buttons and forms, don’t look or work the same way as those on non-framework websites or in applications used by our core constituents.
What’s changing in the new framework?
The new version of the Web Framework introduces some substantial changes to help address the issues listed in the previous section.
The current version of the framework evolved from an internal tool used by IU Communications in fee-for-service projects. As such, opportunities for community feedback on the framework were limited and new features created for one IU site were not always made freely available to other IU sites that could benefit from them.
With the formation of the Digital Campus Design and Infrastructure group, the development of the Web Framework is no longer tied to fee-for-service work. The new framework is being built as a community-oriented resource. We have been working with many marketing and IT groups across IU on this project and plan to expand our collaborative efforts in the coming quarters.
If you or your unit are interested in being involved in the framework’s development, see the ways to get involved described later in this summary.
Update dashboard and automatic updates
Owners of sites built with the new framework will be able to apply bug fixes and new features to their sites just by clicking a button—no coding required. Site owners can also opt into automatically receive framework updates.
Web programmers will be able to create plugins for the new framework—custom templates for displaying specialized types of content not already covered by the framework. These plugins can be added on a per-site basis using a web interface and shared with other units across the university. Units can also submit their plugins to a community directory on the IU Web Framework website.
Comprehensive documentation will be provided both for marketing professionals creating website content and web developers building new templates. The framework team is also collaborating with the IU brand team, the User Experience Office, and others to put together educational resources on web practices that align with university standards and guidelines.
How will this new framework impact your staff?
This section describes how marketing and IT professionals in your unit might be impacted by the new version of the Web Framework and resources they can take advantage of during this process.
The university’s transition to the new version of the framework will be gradual. No existing sites will be “shut off,” and the current version of the framework will continue to receive security and accessibility bug fixes for 18 months after the new version is released. A branding and style update will be released for version 1 after the release of Rivet 2.0, so that older and newer IU websites will appear visually similar.
After its end-of-life date, the current version of the framework will no longer receive updates, though branding assets and documentation for it will remain available until complete retirement at a later date. Tools will be made available to help ease the process of moving sites into the new version of the framework.
The development of the new framework is part of a broader effort to both refine IU’s brand and clarify the guidelines for using it. Resources to help orient marketing professionals to these changes will be made available in the coming months.
In the short term, we invite marketing professionals in your unit to participate in IU’s Marketing and Communications Forum and the Marketing Academy workshops. Beyond being the venues through which updates about the brand are communicated, the forum and workshops are an opportunity for your staff to network with peers and engage in no-cost professional development.
We encourage IT professionals in your unit to begin preparing for the process of transitioning sites out of the current version of the framework and into the new. This process includes taking an inventory of any custom features your sites might have, as these features will need to be rebuilt as plugins. Instructions on how your unit’s programmers can start making custom features compatible with the new framework will be made available about 6 months before its release. Tools and training to assist with site migration are also in development.
In the short term, we invite IT professionals in your unit to join IU’s Web Community of Practice. The Web Community is a primary venue through which updates about the framework are communicated. IT professionals who are part of the Web Community can provide feedback about the framework’s development and get help with the programming aspects of the migration process.
How can my unit get involved?
If you’re part of the Web Community of Practice, we’ll share updates in the #framework Slack channel, and at monthly meetings. If you’re part of the MarComm community, we’ll regularly attend forums, and share updates in The Skinny. No matter who you are, if you contribute to IU’s web presence, we would love to talk or hear your feedback. Fill out our form, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.