With hundreds of performances and artists passing through Carnegie Hall every season, the staff of this world-class organization knew it needed its website to be as efficient and as easy to manage as possible. Yet the site also needed to reflect Carnegie Hall’s mission: “to present extraordinary music and musicians on the three stages of this legendary hall, to bring the transformative power of music to the widest possible audience, to provide visionary education programs, and to foster the future of music through the cultivation of new works, artists, and audiences.”
This challenge required the web team to:
- Integrate with already existing legacy systems
- Streamline web assets so that the same piece of content, audio, or video could be presented in different views on various pages throughout the site
- Give Carnegie Hall staff an unprecedented level of control over every block of web content
- Provide a server infrastructure that allowed the staff to develop new features on no fewer than six individual production mirrors simultaneously.
By using the Ektron Content Management System (CMS) and building the site’s pages in PageBuilder, the Carnegie Hall website takes full advantage of three important Ektron features: taxonomies, smartforms, and widgets.
Taxonomy is used to classify and structure content into logical groupings, using an intuitive tree-like hierarchy. Using any number of taxonomy trees, content can be reused in multiple locations on a site and can also be used to narrow search results. One example of where taxonomy is used extensively on the Carnegie Hall site is within the Online Resource Center.
The Online Resource Center, which contains hundreds of free digital resources for teaching and learning from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute was created using taxonomy. Each item was tagged with multiple “facets,” including grade level, resource type, instrument, and more. Users search the Online Resource Center using these facets, allowing them to easily filter and find articles that most closely match what they are looking for.
Taxonomy is also utilized in the Ektron calendar, particularly in the List View. Carnegie Hall staff members were already using a homegrown internal event authoring system to keep track of the thousands of performances that appear on their three stages every year. iMedia integrated this event system with the Ektron CMS by creating a listening service that allows event publications to hit the web, real time, or be processed through an Ektron editorial workflow. These items are imported into the Ektron calendar in XML, using tags already resident in the event coordination system, such as location and event type. A nuance of the Ektron import is that Carnegie Hall introduces hundreds of new performers every year; these artists must be created in the taxonomy on the fly. The iMedia solution automatically populates these events on the website, requiring little to no human interaction – the pinnacle of web efficiency.
Using Smartforms and Widgets within PageBuilder
Ektron smartform templates are used to help site managers maintain consistency and branding across every page, giving CMS editors defined fields in which to enter their content, images, and other web assets. This CMS feature completely separates content and presentation, allowing for maximum content reuse.
Each smartform allows for four different XLSTs, or views, of its content. By combining the smartform with content tout widgets, web editors can decide precisely which view should be presented on a page. For example, a video may be presented as a double-column feature or as a small single-column feature.
To accommodate the approximately fifty Carnegie Hall web editors, dozens of widgets were created to meet specific editor needs. Pages are endlessly flexible, with control given to the type of header a page utilizes, column width, and more. And in addition to the site-specific widgets, administrators take full advantage of desktop administrative widgets as well.
Integrating Legacy Systems
As noted above, iMedia integrated the website with the internal event coordination system. In addition, Carnegie Hall uses a rich media content delivery network to house its proprietary audio and video. Using an Ektron smartform, the web team takes a feed from the content delivery network, matching the audio or video to a specific event, and presents the rich media on the site. In addition, many non-proprietary videos are posted to YouTube, and Carnegie Hall’s widget configuration allows them to be embedded as well.
Another key integration point is the Tessitura Box Office system, the leading ticketing application for arts and cultural organizations. Carnegie Hall’s new CMS serves as a bridge between the box office and event management systems, providing real time delivery of late breaking event information, seat availability, as well as dynamically tagged Ektron content to its audience.
A Complex Server Configuration Made Manageable
Another infrastructure enhancement incorporates Ektron’s eSync service. eSync automates the secure provisioning of web content, code, assets and templates from development through production, allowing the web team to deploy only the necessary changes at the appropriate time.
Where previously Carnegie Hall had a linear release schedule, now no fewer than six environments support the parallel development of multiple initiatives at the same time. This enables the Hall to more easily achieve long, mid and short term goals, while maintaining the expected level of quality associated with the organization.
There is no question that without the eSync service, Carnegie Hall’s staff could not seamlessly integrate the changes being made on various servers, publishing and managing them simultaneously.
The site accomplished precisely what it was designed to do: distributing content development and publishing to creators and editors, while still giving them absolute control over a highly dynamic, often changing site. It allows predictable areas of the site to be updated from already-existing systems. The Calendar section, for example, has not needed to be touched for more than six months – a phenomenal record of web efficiency.
The Ektron CMS allows the staff to publish content once, but reuse it multiple times, in varying presentations throughout the site. It is fully integrated in a wide variety of legacy systems, giving staff the comfort of working with familiar tools. And the server configuration, supported by Ektron’s eSync, supports a complicated and continually changing series of changes which are ultimately synched on the live website, allowing for future planning and further site experimentation.