A Website Update Only Some Users Will See
by Geordie Dudley | May 5th, 2015
Not every website update project we manage at PINT, Inc. has bold new visuals, or even brand new content. In fact, some projects contain changes that regular site visitors may never see. But these behind-the-scenes updates can be just as important for the business impact of an organization’s web presence.
A recent example of a website update that better aligns the client with their business goals, but does not contain many outward-facing changes is PINT’s latest project with Omincell, Inc.
A Timely Website Update Behind the Scenes
The biggest part of this project was an upgrade of the Sitecore content management system (CMS). CMS updates are generally important for security and performance reasons.
However, the timing of this update offered additional advantages:
- The Omnicell team had become interested in improving CMS features/functionality, especially since the core base of their version, 6.4.1, had been created in 2010
- 2010 is ancient in the technological world by the way – for comparison, in the same year, Apple unveiled the first iPad to the masses, and the ”Double Rainbow” video went viral
- During the project discovery period, Sitecore 7.5 was released and agreed upon as the desired CMS by all relevant stakeholders, delivering several of the technical and architectural advancements that the Omnicell team needed
- While the scope of work contract was being finalized, a much more advanced Sitecore CMS was being developed – specifically Sitecore 8.0 – capitalizing on the structural improvements of 7.5 but dramatically improving the user experience with a brand new, contemporary flat design
- Before the project kickoff in early February, the PINT account and project managers learned of the new Sitecore 8.0 CMS during a standard project handoff review; they quickly tasked their engineers to evaluate the new CMS and its system requirements, hoping that the project could be adapted to this new CMS without advanced change orders
Once the evaluation was complete, PINT realized they could make the same architectural changes as the 7.5 upgrade while simply updating the software to 8.0. The necessary adjustments to the project were made, and PINT presented the new CMS to the Omnicell stakeholders. It was almost immediately adopted as the ideal CMS for this project, addressing the technical and user experience updates Omnicell had been requesting for some time.
By moving forward with this latest version of the Sitecore CMS, the regular processes the Omnicell staff utilized to update the website, manage their products, and interact with customers were given a much needed facelift and updated engine.
One of the important aspects of the upgrade was that it would no longer support Microsoft SQL Server 2008, only versions 2008 R2 (and later). The upgrade also had some higher memory requirements. So the tech team added a second version of SQL Server and increased the memory of the server by almost double.
A longer term project would be to completely rebuild the server, however this addition allowed the team to continue moving the SiteCore upgrade along.
The new CMS also utilized MongoDB as their database for Sitecore Analytics, working in tandem with the Microsoft SQL Server. However, when the PINT engineers began porting the analytics data a couple weeks before launch, it was discovered that the old CMS had accrued over 10GB of data, making it a beast to try and transfer into the new CMS before the launch date.
Luckily, after conferring with the Omnicell stakeholders, it was decided that the analytics data would not be ported over and the new CMS analytics would start from scratch. To ensure no potentially useful information was lost, PINT verified their already existing Google Analytics account was up to date and already gathering any information Omnicell considered vital.
Mapping out the Update
PINT tech resources and front-end developers then worked to make sure all the new connections were made so the site would work seamlessly. There weren’t any complications on this project for the front-end team, since they were able to retain the fields from the previous SiteCore version.
One issue they did encounter dealt with ensuring a publish freeze was in place, so that new content creation or modification could be halted. During this halt, the production team:
- Cloned a new instance of the site on a separate virtual machine (VM)
- Patched up that VM to the new sitecore version
- Performed QA on that VM to make sure any differences were not systemic errors
However, there were still a few press releases that needed to be implemented during the publishing freeze by the Omnicell team. Once the new site was presented to the client, they utilized the task of implementing these press releases as learning opportunities to become familiar with the new-and-improved Sitecore CMS user experience. By the time the updated content was in place, the Omnicell team approved the publish and the new Sitecore 8.0 website was live.
The PINT engineering team then worked on familiarizing themselves with the new Sitecore user experience in order to provide proper client support. Meanwhile, the PINT account and project managers worked in tandem to coordinate a CMS training session with the Omnicell team, as well as gather training materials from Sitecore. Sitecore graciously provided several training opportunities, including:
- Access to their Sitecore XP 8 Content User Basics e-Learning Course
- A link to their Sitecore Education Channel on YouTube
- As well as an engagement with their “Technical Services” team, which consisted of eight to twenty-four hours of “advanced training”, tailored to the specific needs of the client
Armed with Sitecore’s training materials and the training teleconference PINT’s engineering team performed, Omnicell’s team was fully equipped to utilize the Sitecore 8.0 CMS to its fullest extent.
Continuous Website Updates
This is all part of something the Omnicell team understands, and on which they collaborate with PINT: website redesigns have no end date. Sure, redesigns have beta delivery due dates, but the best sites don’t just launch. They launch with a plan for future iterations, tests, and improvements.
What’s next on your web development agenda? Do you have plans for testing and updates? Let us know in the comments section below. And if you need a hand help developing an iteration strategy, we’re happy to help.