The Magnolia CMS and the U.S. Navy

A couple weeks ago, one of Magnolia's press people gave me a sneak preview of a case study for how the Magnolia CMS was being used by one of their partners in redesigning the recruitment website of the United States Navy, I was given the opportunity to write a story about the redesign before the case study was published online. It was a great opportunity I was being offered but I just wasn't able to find the time in my schedule to write the story.

Magnolia CMS LogoSo it is only fitting, that I at least talk about this case study on the Navy's use of the Magnolia content management system on Veteran's Day. The recent was redesigned to be more interactive, more responsive to user needs, and better integrated with social media communities nurtured by the U.S. Navy. Additionally, the site needed to support the Navy’s recently launched new brand, “America’s Navy. A Global Force For Good™”.

As mentioned in the case study, integrators spent six months researching and evaluating open source content management systems. Their evaluation was platform-agnostic; they considered Java, PHP and Python solutions in their research. Key evaluation criteria were:

  • Easy to learn and easy to use for content authors
  • Short learning curve for designers and developers
  • Easy to integrate with custom business objects
  • Compliant with Web standards and accessibility guidelines
  • Scalable and robust

Magnolia CMS Enterprise Edition, together with the Magnolia STK and Blossom module, met all of these criteria. is now running on Magnolia CMS Enterprise Edition with Magnolia STK and Blossom, Magnolia's instant Spring integration. The infrastructure supporting this site includes an Apache Web Server, Tomcat Application Server, MySQL Database, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

You can read for yourself the case study, Magnolia CMS Used by C-E and America's Navy in Global Marketing Project, to get the details on the implementation of this site. However two key topics in this case study sparked my interest. The first was the need for the integrators to comply with Web accessibility standards and the second was how the Magnolia Standard Templating Kit (STK) played an important role in reducing the overall time to market.

In the United States government there is a requirement that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. These accessibility requirements and guidelines are known as Section 508 in the United States government. If you're wanting to make a website more accessible with those that are disabled (hearing impaired, vision impaired, etc) then Web standards and accessibility guidelines need to be followed. I've unfortunately have come across a number of CMS developers and designers that just don't get it when it comes to accessibility and the need to follow standards. According to this case study, Magnolia and C-E seem to get it.

C-E had established its commitment to Web standards in 2001, with the launch of the first version of Subsequent versions had built upon this commitment, with the third version of the site (circa 2005) being cited in Web Standards evangelist, Jeffrey Zeldman’s book "Designing with Web Standards" as an example of best-practice site design and implementation. In addition to compliance with current XHTML and CSS specifications, C-E developers also needed to maximize accessibility for disabled users by implementing the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Priorities 1, 2 and 3.

As most of you know, I'm not much of a web designer (or a web developer for that matter). However, I do understand the need to make sure you (or those doing the actual implementation) have the the right tools to get the job done correctly. So I appreciate how the case study focuses on some of the nuts and bolts on how the site was developed. Namely, how the Magnolia STK as well as Blossom (Magnolia's Spring integration module) were of great value to the development team.

The Magnolia Standard Templating Kit (STK) played an important role in reducing the overall time to market. By providing a framework that cleanly separated interface templates, content and business logic from each other, the STK enabled writers, art directors, developers and quality assurance analysts to work in parallel. This reduced coordination cost, produced cleaner and more maintainable code, and helped in rapid development. To further simplify prototyping, C-E created a custom tool, the Magnolia STK Stencil Library for Omnigraffle, which helped in rapid wireframing, creative brainstorming, and experience planning, while aligning very well with the actual execution.

The case study also focuses on the Magnolia and C-E bringing other features to the site including improved workflow, social media integration, a new content strategy that better addressed the business goals, content authoring tools. This is a great case study that not only gets you to consider using the Magnolia CMS for your next website project, but also to get you to consider the importance of project management and the tools needed for good content management.