Our Movable Type Intranet is Live

A long time ago, Keith Robinson posted about the intranet redesign project our web team was undertaking (first post, second post, third post).

Due to various factors outside of our control, the project has taken much longer than we originally envisaged (11 months as opposed to about 4), and Keith moved on to pastures new before he was able to see our project through to completion.

However, despite his leaving (and the resulting brain drain), on 10 November we successfully launched our Movable Type intranet.

Much of the props for the initial development and customization of Movable Type should go to Brian Fling, who played a pivotal role in setting us down the MT path (before he left - in January, 2004. Are you detecting a theme here?).

I'm very happy about how things have turned out - in the main everything works very well indeed. As Keith mentioned in a couple of his posts, the redesigned Policies & Procedures is one of the key areas of benefit for our users. By only searching the doorway pages that link to particular policies, policy owners are able to control and tweak the order of search results very easily.

To be honest, there's so much to cover about this project that I don't know where to start (I've also just moved house and have a 14 month year old son, and so I am in a perpetual state of exhaustion). So, for now, here's a list of what works well and what doesn't.

What Features Work Well

  • Search - set up for Policies and Procedures, Forms, and whole intranet.
  • Weekly newsletter, news and announcements.
  • Creating new sites and handing them off to internal customers to maintain. So easy.
  • Creating content. See that Entry field? Write in there and hit Save.
  • Fixing bugs and editing pages. So easy to login from any computer to fix an entry or edit a template.
  • Making global changes. We use just a few templates and style sheets to control everything.
  • Adding and setting up authors.

What's Features Work Less Well

  • Category pages. You have to write your content in the Category Description field and Textile doesn't work in here.
  • User-defined order of pages. Can't do it. Pages are ordered alphabetically. Not a problem for 90% of sites, but would be nice to fix.
  • Deleting pages on large sites. It takes about 3-4 minutes to rebuild the Policies and Procedures site.
  • "Recently updated pages" feature on each site. We thought this would be useful, but no one seems that interested in it.
  • Calendar of Events. Gets a bit kludgy at Christmas time, when you go from one year to the next.

On the whole, it is a huge step forward for us, in terms of introducing our organization to the benefits (I hope) of distributed authorship and reducing the maintenance load on the web team. With all the plugins that are available for MT, I hope to be able to fix some of the niggling parts of the system over the next year, and add lots more useful features.

Oh, and the other best part - apart from our time and the cost of a server, it was free (we're a non-profit organization).

Posted on: November 14, 2004 | 1 Comment

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1 Comment Posted (Add Yours)

Although I haven't tried it, a really crappy way to build in custom content ordering is to add spaces to the front of your article titles. The extra space should get ignored. Visually, it'll look fine on the page.

That's an interesting idea, and might work for the smaller sites that we have. Thanks for the tip.

My solution to this problem so far has been to say, no you can't do that. Most people get over it in about 30 seconds and move on to more pressing problems, like what to actually put on their pages - "naturally, we'll want to have our mission statement...".

Actually, I have been looking at a hack which enables you to add a user-definable field to your entries.

We could then let users number their pages using that field and just sort pages based on it - simple! Probably. The major downside is that it is a pretty big hack of the d/b and so could cause problems with other plugins or if we ever wanted to upgrade.

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