In 2012, the University of Virginia School of Medicine had a network of websites built in an outdated content management system that was not serving the needs of users and content managers. The system was difficult to customize, limited in terms of design options, and was not mobile responsive. The design was also dated. I was recruited to assist the school in moving its network of sites to WordPress as I had managed for the University of Mary Washington the year before.
The project was complex mostly from a cultural perspective. In order to successfully migrate such a large number of sites, we needed to build relationships with faculty and staff and recruit ambassadors for a proof of concept, showcasing what could be done with WordPress and some custom development. I worked hand-in-hand with individual departments and labs to create uniquely functioning sites that were built on a united theme with global branding elements throughout.
I developed three flexible custom mobile-responsive themes built on the Genesis framework:
Basic Sciences Theme
Clinical Department Theme
Previously having worked in a large academic environment, I knew that each department can have unique needs, and that there are frequently a wide range of skills among the staff in terms of managing and upkeep of content. This requires that the theme be flexible and extendable, but able to be changed and manipulated without demanding a lot of coding expertise among the users.
The buy-in was gradual and successful. Upon my leaving the University in 2015, about one half of the School of Medicine sites had been completed, and we were building a larger server network to accommodate the rest of the sites. The migration project was completed following my departure and the entire School of Medicine was migrated to the WordPress Multi-Network platform that I had initially built.
Added functionality included custom plugins:
UVa SOM Custom Search: This search federated Google Custom Search and UVa’s People Search functionality in a single query, enabling you to find information about an individual at the University while also finding their contact information (screenshot below).
UVa SOM Custom Navigation bar: This was a top navigation bar that could be applied to any of the Basic Sciences, Clinical Department, or Newsletter themes. It used jQuery to hide and reveal global navigation elements for the entire University and the UVa Health Center at the top of each page. Links within the global navigation could be edited from a shared set of text files to be used by the existing websites in the legacy system as we made the migration.
UVa SOM Research Faculty Directory: This was a custom set of SQL queries that ran on a nightly cron, importing faculty information into the WordPress database each night via API call to the School’s grant management system, Curvita. It also included an AJAX API call to the PubMed records for each research faculty member that loaded within their individual directory listing.