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Content Management System update and WordPress migration for MCA Chicago

After completing the “facelift” of the MCA’s website, we needed to address the site’s content management system. The legacy system was custom built by a previous in-house developer and was at least five or six years old—ancient by most web standards. In addition, the old CMS had been hacked for the launch of the facelift in order to make the updated front-end function on top of the legacy CMS.

The new content management system needed to be agile, flexible, well supported, open source, and appropriate for multiple users with varying levels of content permissions and technical skills. There had been a long held and strong desire to reconsider the naming conventions used in the navigation of the site (Exhibitions vs Programs vs Performances, etc), but getting institutional consensus on such a pivotal topic before starting the migration very well could have kept the migration from happening at all. So we needed a CMS solution that allowed an authorized content manager to change nav headings and restructure categories easily and quickly, at the museum’s whim. My collaborator on the project suggested WordPress, which was primarily known as a blogging platform at the time. After a quick exploration of the dashboard and the menu structure, WordPress’s virtues and ability to meet the requirements and expectations was clear.

After some careful consideration, we decided at the outset to run two different websites on two different servers, replicating one section of the site at a time with fresh, clean code on the WP side, rather than simply migrating old, buggy code. Writing new code also allowed us the opportunity to address some of the site’s architecture and design issues as we went along. The project was a testament to taking an agile and responsive approach to the development of a content-rich and complex website.

My role:
Project Manager, Content Manager and Strategist

Project collaborator: Marty Spellerberg
Content coordinator: Marian Oman

This post is a collaboration between Sarah Wambold and Marty Spellerberg. Sarah Wambold is a Denver-based project manager and documentary producer. Marty Spellerberg is an Austin-based interactive media designer/developer.