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University of Pennsylvania

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Project Overview

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) came to Zivtech looking to improve the look, feel, and general usability of their website. With no simple way to input content, no apparent connections between pages, and an outdated look, they were struggling to work with a website that did not live up to their reputation as one of the top communications schools in North America. After completing an extensive Discovery process and learning about all the specific needs of their constituents, our team was able to develop a beautifully architected site that visually depicts the inter-disciplinary connections throughout the ASC community.


During our Discovery process, our team uncovered the various pain points the faculty, staff, students, and alumni felt while using the previous ASC site. Our challenge was understanding their community's vision for the new site and translating those goals into an informative, responsive and dynamic site. Through user surveys and interviews we discovered that the faculty and graduate student profiles and their publications were the most sought-after sources of information on the ASC site. Those same faculty and students were also looking for an easy way to update their profiles with their latest news, projects and grants. The ASC staff wanted a new website that could handle multiple content contributors, be optimized for mobile users, and showcase the people, research, and excellence associated with their prestigious institution.

Why Drupal

We chose Drupal for this project because of its dynamic capabilities, which facilitated a fully customizable website to fit ASC’s needs. Depicting the interconnected cross-disciplinary nature of ASC's community and scholarly work translated neatly to Drupal's strength of allowing content to be connected. In Drupal, a piece of content is called a 'node' which the dictionary defines as "a point at which lines or pathways intersect or branch; a central or connecting point." This is a telling choice of wording. Throughout the ASC site, people are associated with research areas and research centers creating a network of relationships that weaves together news, events, videos, projects and grants. The cross-pollinization of ideas and scholarship is exemplified by the homepage grid that dynamically generates groupings of 4 pieces of related content at a time: a faculty member, a graduate student, a research center, and the research area that unites them all. The relational network is also present on individual biography pages of faculty and students as well as the research areas that overlap departments within ASC.

Problem Solving

Creating a content moderation system that was both flexible and centralized was another paramount concern for ASC staff. Enabling all community members to edit their bios and publications was just as important as creating a fine-tuned system of editorial access that designated control of particular sections of the site (for example, a research center director can edit any page that belongs to that particular center). However, to ensure that the quality of content stays consistent, we created a system where all new pages and edits must be approved by site administrators before they are published to the live site. These administrators can manage content behind the scenes by reviewing content via a queue of recently edited pages.

We also simplified the process for sending out alumni newsletter emails. Using Mailchimp to manage their email lists and campaigns, we streamlined the editoral and delivery process so that creating a newsletter is as simple as creating a new piece of content on the site. All editing, previewing, and execution of mass email campaigns can now be managed via the new ASC site.

Client training and documentation was another essential component of this project as help desk staff, content managers and IT staff at ASC all needed to understand how to use their new site and harness the potential of Drupal features. For this project we provided extensive written documentation, dozens of video tutorials, and many hours of in-person training. In many projects, client education is a primary deliverable, as the success of the project depends on the ability for the client staff to own and maintain the site's content in the long run.

Technical Breakdown

We used our Bear Starter Kit with all of its contributed modules, but we also did extensive work with the MailChimp and Workbench modules. We used 97 contributed module packages and 23 custom modules in total.

With all of our projects, we make it a priority to contribute all of our bug fixes and enhancements back to the community. Some of the contributions that came from this project were:
Bugfix in BeautyTips
Enhancement for MailChimp
Bugfix for Views


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