Westfield Washington Schools sought out the expertise of Six Feet Up to assist in their site migration, as well as:

  • Upgrade their initial development efforts from Plone 2.5.3 to Plone 3.x
  • Integrate Buildout for ease of development and deployment
  • Consolidate 10 individual Plone sites into a single site using Lineage
  • Allow each site to have its own theme (look-and-feel) using Theme Switcher

 

Areas of Expertise

Industries

  • Education

Challenge

The 2009 school year at Westfield Washington Schools (WWS) was met with a fresh overhaul of the main district website and a new site for each school in the district. This new family of web sites reflects the WWS vision of being "the world-class learning organization focused on continuous quality growth for all." The "for all" is heavily reflected in their new world-class Web site, which ensures information distribution and accessibility for students, parents, staff and the entire community.

WWS chose the Plone open-source framework because it fit their criteria -- not only in budget, but in functionality. Out-of-the-box features like calendars, news and document management fit bill for the redesign, and provided a starting point for the development of new design layouts ("themes") for all 10 sites.

It soon became clear, though, that managing and sharing content across 10 sites would be tedious and time consuming. WWS thought they had hit a wall with Plone -- that it wouldn't do what they needed it to do. Six Feet Up (SFU) solved this problem with their newly-created add-on product, Lineage.

 

Implementation Details

Lineage allows one single Plone instance to appear as multiple web sites to the end user. This enables site managers to have a single repository of content and share it across multiple sites. Later in this case study, learn about more ways Lineage was leveraged across all 10 sites.

District Homepage
Click to view full-size image…

An upgrade is not for the faint of heart, but is well worth the event.

While WWS was in the process of building their new Plone site, a new major release came out -- Plone 3. Take a look at this list of highlights[1] to see why WWS was eager to upgrade:

  • Versioning, history and reverting content:
    • See who/what/when on content -- who edited it, when they edited it, and what they changed
    • Ability to revert to earlier versions of a document
  • Automatic "locking" and "unlocking" of content:
    • Eliminates accidental overwriting of each other's content
    • Easy to "unlock" content with the click of a button
  • Full-text indexing of Word and PDF documents:
    • WWS utilizes PDFs for sharing materials that are often printed and handed out in school
    • This new feature allows them to be searchable on the site as well

District Info

Related Content

  • Compatibility with new add-on products moving forward:
    • WWS has plans to implement a rich set of tools in the future to enhance communication between the district and the community
    • It was top priority not to be held back by an older Plone version

[1] A list of new features and upgrades in Plone 3.0 can be found here:
https://plone.org/news/old-news/plone-foundation-announces-plone-3.0

WWS recognized that having a partner like Six Feet Up during the upgrade process would enable the transition to be seamless. Experience with upgrading many other sites paid off -- during the process, the team was able to identify several add-on products which were not being used and alert the client that it would be wise to remove them.  Additionally, all previous data was ported over which included 1 GB of data, LDAP connectivity, and existing user roles/permissions.

Simplify Roll-Outs with Buildout

With the upgrade to Plone 3, SFU was also able to assist WWS in setting up an installation using Buildout – a development tool which enables a fast and easy deploy of a Plone site to any location. For example, use Buildout to:

  • Build an instance of a Plone site on a developer's local computer
  • Roll out the same site to a test server
  • Deploy an exact replica to a production server

Using Buildout, all three instance of the site will contain the same products and dependencies. The only thing that varies between the three is the data (e.g., the contents of the site -- pages, folders, etc.). Want a development server to look exactly like the production server? Use Buildout to create the development site then simply copy over the data file (data.fs) from production. Voilà -- a mirror site for development purposes.

Manage Multiple Sites at Once with Lineage

Lineage enables subdirectories of a site to seem as if they are separate websites to the user, but ties the sites together via simple navigation and managed content for administrators: 

  • Sites are "children" of a "parent" site:
    Simply add a new folder and change the sub-type to 'child site'
Child Site
Click to view full-size image…
  • The new site is automatically created and added to the easy-jump navigation:

  • Child sites can share syndicated content with the parent site -- news, events, portlets, etc.

    Notice the similarities and differences between the main district site:

And this high school:

  • And vice versa -- parent site content and portlets can filter down to the child sites
  • All sites have centralized user management for administrators:
    • In the case of WWS, all users are maintained in LDAP, which is then linked to Plone.
    • Each site's permissions are then maintained via the "Sharing" tab.
  • Each site acts as its own Plone site:
    • It has its own top-level navigation
    • Site-specific portlets can be used which are not shared among other sites or the parent site
    • User permissions can be individualized for the child site

Six Feet Up's experience with Lineage can help bring the management of any organization's multiple sites under control.

One Site, Many Flavors

Adding the Theme Switcher product to the WWS installation allowed each school to have their own individual layout -- while still existing as one Plone site installation. For example, the Cary Ridge Elementary School has a different header graphic than Washington Woods Elementary:

Carey Elementary

 

Woods

  • Sites can have different themes ("skins"), or share the same themes.  It's as easy as 1-2-3:
    1. Select the "Theme Switcher" tab on your new child site (folder)
    2. Check the box to enable different themes on the folder
    3. Select from any of the themes installed in your Plone installation
  • Themes can be easily managed and customized by site managers
    • Managers can add new themes to the build
    • Themes can be shared by all sites

Results

 

Leveraging Plone with Lineage and Theme Switcher can benefit any hierarchical organization:

  • Schools: districts with separate schools or universities with separate departments

  • Large departmental organizations: hospitals, businesses, service centers, etc.

  • Associations: membership associations with chapters or groups

  • And many more

Contact us to find out more about Plone upgrades, Buildout, Lineage and Theme Switcher.

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