While Hannon Hill's Cascade Server is at the heart of Philadelphia University's web content management strategy, a single product cannot always satisfy the disparate (and often transplanted) limbs of an institution where some faculty and staff desire more freedom when it comes to the design, administration and expression of what is traditionally understood as a blog.
Predating our use of Cascade Server by two years, our installation of WordPress on a dedicated server was a stopgap measure instituted first (and still) for our online daily news outlet: PhilaU Today. WordPress was free, open source and easy to install and get up and running. Its community of devoted developers writing plugins for practically everything also made WordPress more appealing than its competition at the time. Once the word spread (a partial pun?), academic programs and services (e.g., Industrial Design or Study Abroad on any given year) began to request installations that would allow them to showcase their particular student work and news — elements not always covered in PhilaU Today or on the recruitment-focused websites for each major. By the time we adopted Cascade, these blogs were legacy, and with our focus on using Cascade to push out the unified design of the juggernaut of our primary domain that encompasses over 50 academic programs, 3 distinct colleges and numerous administrative departments, we made the conscious decision to let the WordPress blogs be while we developed and designed the — by nature of our brand — Philadelphia University website proper.
After establishing the wireframes, information architecture and all of the supporting design and scripting elements that would become our primary, recruitment-focused domain, it became clear to a small department of IT staff and an even smaller department of Marketing and Public Relations (which includes web communications) that WordPress blogs — providing that they were initially setup by Marketing and IT with a top level admin from each that could not be removed from users — would continue. Seven years on, and these blogs have not only continued, but thrived to now include over 70 blogs.
Many provisos are in place for those who blog using WordPress: 1) the initial setup, approval of blog design (which was encouraged to be unique and fitting for the program it served), and right to override or edit content must remain centralized with marketing staff; 2) blogs could not violate the University brand (outlined in our Style Guide); 3) blogs must be maintained with current content as any blog untended for weeks at a time is the kiss of death; and 4) use of WordPress must be restricted to blogs. Regarding the latter, it is great that WordPress sites have now advanced to the point where they can be setup to act as standalone sites (i.e., not traditional blogs). But our policy was clear: official departmental sites were to built within Cascade Server. To do otherwise would risk not only redundancy of information, but also misrepresentation of the institution by well meaning people who do not nor could ever represent the institution as a whole.
These blogs could have been brought into Cascade Server. We considered that option. But legacy site management being what it is, we chose to retain the separate WordPress server and maintain it as our place where members of the University community could contribute to our brand story without diluting the precision work that goes into the design and maintenance of the primary domain.