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YSM Web 2015: It's A Wrap

December 23, 2015
by Justin Fansler

2015 marked the beginning of a complete rebuild for the School of Medicine's web presence. It was a challenging year filled with accomplishments. As we approach the year's end and transition into 2016, I want to take some time to recap the changes you've seen and the improvements that are coming.

2015: A Year in Review

Web Template 3

In July we launched the third version of the school's web template (T3). The first unified school template launched in 2007. T3 creates a native and consistent experience across mobile, tablet and desktop devices by utilizing responsive design with larger text and more white space on the page. There are more than 150 different content templates with thousands of content combination options to enable organizations to create unique websites within the school's web branding.

The templates were designed by Oscar Valdez and Katie Sadow at Adoptive. Joe Burdick, Sophie Heidecker, and Hon Chih at Adoptive created the HTML, CSS and JS for the sites with technical direction from Christopher Romero. Christopher Summers of UrbanCherry built the new website application, led template implementation, and moved us to the cloud. Mark Albis of the Web Group implemented the content templates and provided application support.

At launch, there were more than 560 websites and 22,500 pages managed in the school's web content management system (Tridion) that were republished in T3. Mark Albis currently completes a new development cycle every two weeks, releasing enhancements and bug fixes at least twice a month.

Systems Rebuilt: News and People Profile System and Tridion 2013

At the same time as T3 launched, we also launched a completely rebuilt News and People Profile System as well the latest version of the Tridion web content management system (Tridion 2013).

The new profile system was built in-house with technical lead by Christopher Romero at Adoptive and a development team consisting of Dan Poincelot in the Web Group and Vladimir Zhidal, Pavel Hizhuk, Andrey Yurashevich, Andrei Hryhoryeu, and Evgeny Kapylsky of iTechArt in Minsk, Belarus.

The system contains a laundry list of new features and enhancements to make it easy for organizations and people at Yale to manage memberships, profiles and news from one central application. The user interface is designed to be intuitive and simple to use, guiding all levels of users through the process of creating and maintaining content. In addition, because the system in now managed in-house, we are able to complete a development cycle every two weeks, pushing out updates to the system twice a month.

At the same time as T3 and the News and People Profile System launched, we also launched the latest version of the Tridion web content management system, Tridion 2013, with technical lead by Christopher Summers. The updated system provides a visually enhanced user interface, faster publishing and adds the ability to pull media content from other systems. In addition, it sets us up to move Tridion completely to the cloud in 2016.

A Move to the Cloud

We moved more than 75% of the school's web and application servers to Microsoft's Azure cloud service in 2015. The school's entire website and News and People Profile System, including a content delivery network and image resizing tool, now reside in the cloud. With this move we are able to cut our infrastructure operating cost by 40% a year while increasing reliability and speed. Our websites and applications are fully redundant, meaning that if a data center goes offline in North America, the sites automatically come online in a data center in Europe or Asia.

In 2016 we anticipate completing our move to the cloud by migrating Tridion and the Flyerboard applications to Azure.

Help Desk

On September 15, 2015 we implemented an easy-to-use Help Desk system as part of our effort to provide quick and transparent website and application support. The system allows users to create tickets by emailing or logging in and answering a few simple questions. Led by our support specialist, Liz Pantani, we typically respond to tickets within an hour or triage them to other members of the Web Group to complete. On average, support requests are completely resolved within 3.5 hours. For those tickets that need development work, we can easily transition them to our JIRA software development system for our software engineers to incorporate into website and system enhancements.

New Websites and Editing Clients

Justin Navarro led his team of dedicated students to build more than 65 websites, provide editing service to more than 50 clients, and completely overhauling dozens of websites in 2015. In addition, he launched a new Web Services website and created a new Service Desk portal for clients. Overall, website service requests have increased by 87%; however, with the elimination of the "50/50 split", student labor costs have doubled and our overall team has shrunk. We've been able to maintain our high level of service through streamlining processes, utilizing a more experienced and leaner student workforce, and generally working incredibly hard.

2016: What's Coming

2016 promises to be another productive year! The team has multiple major initiatives planned, and there is an organizational change on the horizon. By the end of 2016 we will have:

  • consolidated our systems to the News and People Profile System (and probably renamed it) and Tridion
  • completely moved to the cloud
  • completed hundreds of functionality enhancements to our system
  • launched at least 20 new websites
  • fixed search


Website search at YSM currently uses the University's Google Search Appliance and it does not work. The University has a license to index 1 million pages, but has over 11 million pages across the entire university. This means, at any given time, at least 10 million pages are not included in search results. We plan to launch a new search tool in January that provides much better search capabilities for the school's websites. In addition to containing all content, the search index is updated instantly when content is published or unpublished from Tridion and provides an interface for website visitors to login to see secured search results.


We've begun a project to completely rebuild the current calendaring system as a new module in the News and People Profile System (clearly, we need a new name for this system). Like news, users will be able to easily create events and tag them with people and organizations. We're adding many new features to the calendar and have planned a user interface that is intuitive and simple to use. We anticipate launching the new calendar in the summer.

Media Server

We've also planned a new project to incorporate the current Streaming Media Library into the News and People Profile System. This will allow users to upload videos or audio and tag them in events, news, people profiles and organization profiles, as well as use them on Tridion websites. It will provide a central repository for streaming video and audio content on the school's websites. As with our other projects, the goal is to provide an easy-to-use interface to make media management simple. This will launch with the new calendar in the summer.

Tridion: Web 8

SDL recently launched the newest version of Tridion, which is now called SDL Web 8. This new version offers many functionality improvements, but more importantly, offers backend enhancements that will allow us to move to the cloud, publish faster, and make the overall performance of our websites quicker.

Clinical Practice Overhaul

The team will help launch a rebranded Yale Medical Group web presence in mid-2016, which will include major enhancements to the News and People Profile System, Tridion, and some completely new web systems. It is a tremendous opportunity to enhance the patient care experience while providing improvements to the entire YSM web ecosystem.

An Expanded Team

We are planning to expand the team in 2016 with at least one new position. We currently have an opening for a Front End Developer, but also anticipate further expanding the team to support the new clinical practice web presence.

Thank You

The Yale community makes the Web Group an incredible place to work and we couldn't do it without your support, so thank you! Thank you for providing constant feedback, letting us know enhancements your faculty and staff need, being patient with us as we roll out major new systems, and for being engaged in helping us in our goal to create a world-class web presence for Yale School of Medicine.

We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday and winter break and look forward to continuing our work with you in the new year.

Submitted by Justin Fansler on December 22, 2015