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102DE, Wisconsin Center

One Site, One Framework, One Sustainable Path

Monday, Oct 14 9:30 - 10:15

Presented by Bob Crisler and Aaron Coleman

In 2007, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln embarked on a path unique in its time for a large institution, and still rare today: it became university policy that all sites of entities under the university brand would be built on one codebase, one framework.

Previously, we’d wrestled with an unsustainable status quo: each department and college was an independent publisher to the web. About half used a set of voluntary templates that we’d developed, but many did not. This meant that, in many cases, everything inside the body tag was unique to that site. Those responsible for ensuring the consistency and effectiveness of institutional communication had little say over what was emerging as history’s most important communication medium. It also meant that those ensuring security, accessibility and public safety, and those developing integrations, could not effectively meet those needs.

12 years in, we’ve successfully deployed four major redesigns, literally shifting the look and feel of all college, unit and department sites in a matter of hours at each transition; we’ve been able to take early advantage of new web technologies such as responsive design and CSS Grid, and we’ve implemented a community and shared governance structure that supports alignment and shared ownership of the web framework and suite of developed public information apps (CMS, calendar of events, media repo, maps, etc.) that support over 800 websites (defined as distinct information architectures) across the university. Along the way, we were awarded the last of eduStyle’s Best Overall Website awards, and we continue to achieve consistently strong marks on accessibility and site performance.

Attendees will learn of the real-world advantages of a community-driven approach to institutional web development, elements of a proposal to try it on their own campus, and hazards to avoid if they should choose a similar path.



Bob Crisler

Director, Internet and Interactive Media

Bob Crisler has been involved in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's web effort since 2000, when he moved from a print design role into the first full-time job the university devoted to the medium. In 2003, Bob founded the institution's web community, the UNL Web Developer Network. In 2011 he led the 10-FTE web group, Internet and Interactive Media, into a dual-reporting relationship with the university's University Communication and Information Technology Services departments. In 2015 the WDN Shared Governance Board was founded to help guide the development of the UNL.edu website going forward. Bob is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance IT Accessibility Group.

Aaron Coleman

Senior Web Developer

Aaron Coleman has been a Web Developer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2004 and has helped lead site transitions of the major framework changes since. Aaron has been an active member of the Web Developer Network, presenting on code and documentation, and has helped lead training studios to support the campus developer community. He is also a member of the WDN Shared Governance Board.