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CDE Web Site Overview

Technical details of the California Department of Education's Internet Web site.

Web Site History

During the summer of 2003, the California Department of Education (CDE) kicked off its Web Redesign Project as part of the Department's on-going Web maintenance program. Among its goals were to:

The current CDE Web site went live on April 26th, 2004. The total number of Web pages and documents was reduced from 25,000 to about 7,000. The CDE Web Team developed a complete content management system from scratch using Active Server Pages (ASP) and Microsoft SQL Server. The new site was very well received. In fact, the CDE Web site was selected as the 2004 first place winner of the Center for Digital Government and Education's ninth annual Best of the Web contest (K-12 state Web site category).

Innovation

The CDE Web site was developed from the ground up using state-of-the-art technology. A full-blown content management system was created using ASP, SQL Server and Macromedia Contribute software. This system consists of:

Other innovative features of the CDE site include the use of templates, server-side includes (SSI) and CSS, which allow us to make sitewide changes instantaneously. As an example of our use of CSS and dynamic content, a page's color scheme and navigation menu are dynamically generated based on the location of the page in the site. Proportional text sizing is used throughout the site, allowing visually impaired people the ability to increase the text size.

To make the job of creating Web pages easier for CDE's 100 Web content contributors, the CDE site provides additional tools. For example, an internal, one-click html validator (W3C) and link checker are provided on all templates. Also, content contributors have access to an online, dynamic broken link report, which provides the exact location of broken links for their pages.

The site employs industry best practices regarding page layout and structure: Web accessibility standards (W3C Level One and Section 508), scalable font sizes, search engine optimization, optimal use of white space, limited use of images and the 256-web safe color palette, and the use of dynamic code to minimize the number of templates needed. But the most impactful of the site's page layout technologies is the widespread use of CSS technology for page layout. Using CSS for page layout allows users to view the site's pages on a vast variety of computers and other devices, such as portable and handheld devices. Additionally, CSS page layouts vastly improved accessibility for disabled site visitors.

Functionality

When the current CDE Web site was designed, both internal and external stakeholders were surveyed to determine their needs regarding site design, general requirements, content relevance, functionality, and the overall look and feel. Much of the functionality that was built into the site resulted from this input:

End User Features and Tools

Web Applications

The Department maintains many important Web applications on the site that consistently receive thousands of hits per year. Some of the more intuitive and interactive ones include:

Efficiency

Internal Efficiency

The CDE Web site utilizes a fully automated topic-based content management system with redesigned processes and standards. Security is a priority; all Web pages are created/modified in a staging environment and electronically posted to the primary Web servers after all approvals have been obtained. Internal content contributors no longer need extensive technical expertise to post Web documents, which saves significant time in the development of these pages. This allows employees to be more efficient and focused on their program areas and assisting their customers. These processes ensure quality content and fast turnaround.

The CDE content management system provides automated tracking of all pages and allows internal users the ability to look up specific details about the site, Web pages and metadata, including Web page counts, status reports, hit reports, and ad hoc reports.

The Department has an effective operational recovery plan in place to protect the new Web site in the event of a disaster.

External Efficiency

Web site visitors are able to find their information easily through the topic-based site design. Also, due to the complete metadata collection through the content management system, both internal and external search engines return relevant results. Site visitors don't have to travel all over the site for information.

If site visitors have questions about the content on the site, every content level page displays a contact person or program, phone number and/or e-mail address so that visitors can request additional program information.

The funding opportunities system on the CDE Web site allows site visitors to easily view all sources of state and federal educational funding that are available, in one central location. The content management system now ensures that every funding opportunity is fully reviewed prior to final posting. The information is highly reliable and standardized.

Economy

The Department's content management system was developed entirely in-house with existing resources. No external contracting was needed. The system is flexible and fully scalable to accommodate any future needs. Enhancements and modifications to the system can be easily accomplished and integrated through in-house expertise. Typical proprietary content management systems with similar functionality can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $2,000,000 for one-time costs. Due to the proprietary and inflexible nature of most systems, oftentimes contractors must support these products at an ongoing additional cost, which can easily range from $10,000 to $200,000 or more per year. The annual costs for the CDE Web site is under $7,000.

Questions:   Web Services Office | tsdweb@cde.ca.gov
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