A New DSWeb - Building on our Accomplishments, Enabling the Future

By Ted Kull

For several years the Dynamical Systems Activity Group and SIAM have been working toward rewriting the Dynamical Systems Web Portal (DSWeb) to modernize the website and enhance its functionality. In the summer of 2014 SIAM solicited proposals from a select list of developers and chose Brio Solutions (www.briosolutions.com) to build a new website for DSWeb. Our selection of Brio was based on several factors, the most important of which was our experience with working with them when they implemented the SIAM News Online website (sinews.siam.org). The SIAM Information Systems Department (ISD) included the project in its 2015 budget and received approval from the SIAM Board to move forward.

The proposed new DSWeb portal will provide an updated design that incorporates many of the capabilities of the existing site but will be implemented using a powerful and flexible back-end content management system that can be extended to add new features and support emerging Internet standards.

At the recent Dynamical Systems conference the DSWeb editorial committee was shown an advanced "work in progress" preview of the new site. Feedback was very positive and SIAM ISD asked if there were any suggestions for a new DSWeb logo and color scheme. As a result the DSWeb committee is offering a prize for the best new design idea. To check that out click here.

Screenshot of the new DSWeb portal.

Brio is now working to build out the features of the new site based on the objectives defined by the DSWeb committee and SIAM. The primary goals consist of the following:

  • To complete a content management system rebuild so that site administrators can update all on-site content and registered site users can submit content for approval.
  • To integrate with SIAM's Association Management System.
  • To enhance profiles for community registered DSWeb members, including the ability to link off-site to social profiles.
  • To allow comments & feedback on magazine articles.
  • To update and modernize the site design.
  • To create RSS Feeds to give members another option for following new content.
  • To enable tagging of content to create strong links between related content.
To allow SIAM staff and the DS Activity Group to easily update website content, Brio Solutions recommended a website built on DotNetNuke (DNN), an efficient, scalable content management platform that is already supported by SIAM. Widely used and supported, DNN is an open-source platform that provides a robust, easy-to-manage framework for deploying enterprise-level websites. DNN is used internationally by corporations, non-profits, and local and national governments to create web infrastructures to achieve streamlined, cost-effective, and easily managed solutions.

Key features of the DNN content management platform include:

  • Ease of Use: Web pages can be added and maintained in minutes. Website administrators have fine-tuned control over site access and permissions.
  • Scalability: Sites can grow as online needs increase, including an unlimited number of pages. For example, the City of Denver has built out their installation to support 70 citywide sites under a single installation, consolidating management and granting permissions to specific sites where needed.
  • Extensibility: DNN's open-source framework allows developers to build out any customization imaginable, and its basis in common Internet standards and Microsoft technologies means it works smoothly with the technology that SIAM is already using. In addition, DNN has a large marketplace of more than 2,000 apps that can be easily customized to add functionality when needed.

A Wide Range of New Features

Using the capabilities of DNN, its available third party modules, and the expertise of Brio we plan to provide the following features and capabilities on the new DSWeb web-site.

  • Easy-to-use publishing tools that support:
    • Custom forms;
    • Customized Content Approval and Workflow;
    • Permissions-based content;
    • Search Engine Optimization tools; and
    • Advanced Analytics.
  • Social media integration: Built-in to DNN are basic social and community building features. Once configured, these features allow the activity group to grow and be more interactive with each other. Members can create a DSWeb profile for themselves and view and search other DSWeb members.
  • Activity Feeds: The activity feed is a Facebook style “Wall” where users can post comments and share videos and links.
  • Messaging: Website members can send other members messages through the DSWeb portal.
  • DSWeb Member Profiles and Directory: The DSWeb site will have the capability of providing member profile fields to accommodate information on registered users of the site. This feature will require some discussion to determine the appropriate data and whether it should come from SIAM membership database or be editable by the user directly on the site as well as what data will be viewable by other users.
  • Responsive Design: A responsive web design detects and adjusts to the screen size of a visitor's device which enables an optimized experience for browsing via desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
  • Support for a Wide Range of Content types: The existing DSWeb site has 12 different content types. Each content type has associated meta-data fields that are typically provided by the person creating the content or through integration with SIAM's membership database. The new site will provide support for these existing content types and have the capability to support new types in the future.
  • Notifications: A customizable notification system will be implemented allowing users to configure notices to be sent daily, weekly, monthly, or not at all. The notification service will support site administrators and editors by informing them of pending tasks, as well as support registered users by letting them know when new content has be published.
  • Commenting: Will allow feedback and discussion on articles with built-in commenting. Comments may be limited to specific DNN user roles, like registered DSWeb users, or can be open to anyone. Additionally, SIAM may specify that comments must be approved by a site administrator before being published. Other features include: CAPTCHA support, avatar integration, and DNN profile integration.
  • RSS Feeds & Consumption: DSWeb content can be shared with other sites or feed readers through flexible, customizable RSS feeds. Feeds can be generated for all articles, articles in a specific category, articles by author, and more. DSWeb can also consume and display feeds from other sites that provide RSS feeds such as SIAM News, the SIAM Job Board, etc.
  • Search Functionality: Built-in to DNN is a robust search function that indexes all content and makes it available via a site wide search.
  • Integration with SIAM's Association Management System (AMS): Integration with the AMS requires additional discovery regarding the type and level of integration. This may include data integration for member profiles, activity group officers, and other data as specified by SIAM and the DS Activity Group during the discovery process. Brio works closely with SIAM staff and the DS Activity Group to create a specification and plan to facilitate DS Web's integration with the AMS.

Content Migration

It is clearly important to migrate the existing DSWeb content to the new site and our plan is accomplish this as part of the new site implementation. However, we are going to wait until the new site's design is stable and near completion before deciding on how the migration will be performed. Our hope is that we can automate some or all of the migration and then follow-up with a manual review and edit of the data in order to correct any errors that might occur.


So when will this all be available? At this time we cannot provide a specific "go live" date because we still have a number of details to work out, especially content migration and AMS integration, but we expect to have the new site available in "preview mode" in late summer or early fall. This will allow the existing site to continue to function while we finish the building of the new site and get your feedback on features.

This is an exciting time for the Activity Group and SIAM. This new DSWeb will be among the first implementations a full suite of DNN features in a unified site that together will enhance and support the community. We know this will be a process of learning as we build. We look forward to learning and "tweaking" the site as we roll out features and receive your feedback so, please stay tuned and let us know what you think (by emailing the Portal Editor-in-Chief).

Ted Kull
Director Information Management Systems

Categories: Magazine, Editorial

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