ImageX assisted the university client with Drupal and business development, Open Edu platform integration, and various backend needs.
ImageX’s educational partnership significantly enhanced the staff’s technical knowledge, helping the client grow exponentially. ImageX also built customizable templates that allowed its customers to have more control over content and editable pages.
“[ImageX] has been an amazing partner as a go-to developer.”
Please describe your organization.
We are a small liberal arts and sciences college with select pre-professional programs in San Antonio, Texas.
What is your position?
I am the associate director of Web and creative services.
What business challenge were you trying to address with ImageX?
Our work with them was centered around our .edu website and all of the subdomains and directories associated with it.
Please describe the scope of their involvement.
We have a developer on-staff who is familiar with our institution's guidelines and overarching communication and marketing goals for the site, plus the general maintenance done through our on-campus resources. ImageX stepped in to help us with all of our backend needs, including Drupal and module development, as well as a lot of the business objects and logic behind some of our new projects. They've helped us iron out requirements and figure out how to implement ideas realistically, while also helping all of the clients who would benefit from the project to reach their individual constituencies' goals.
We use Acquia as a hosting platform for our Drupal solution. As an Acquia-approved vendor, ImageX have worked with us in determining what it can support and in integrating our existing usage into platforms like Open Edu. Being able to merge Acquia's capabilities with Drupal for our existing development has helped us make implementations in accordance to our custom specifications.
Our college has four web-centered team members, including a web communications manager, a web producer, a frontend developer and a web director. Our frontend developer and web director are in charge of most of our collaboration with ImageX.
We've worked with multiple developers in ImageX's team, depending on particular aspects of our project. Altogether, we've collaborated with between four and six people. ImageX has developers with expertise in specific areas but, in terms of day-to-day conversations, maintenance, bug fixes and pushing new minor features to the site which don't require a new scope of work, we work with a single service agreement developer. We've had a fantastic working relationship with this person. We communicate our needs in as accurate and developer-specific language as we can and he translates them into what Drupal or Acquia can do for us. He's been an amazing partner as a go-to developer.
We do have a project manager with whom we have bi-weekly updates. Since we have a frontend developer on staff, we work better with ImageX when we are able to communicate direct feature requirements or bug issues with them in order to have as little information lost in translation. Most of our communication is done through Basecamp or Google spreadsheets.
It is a tremendous help for us to have a person who speaks the technical language on-staff. If we didn't have this resource, we'd be relying more heavily on our project manager.
How did you come to work with ImageX?
Our university did a request for proposal for a complete website redesign in March 2013. ImageX were one of the vendors who replied to it and submitted a proposal, but we didn't choose them for our initial redesign. We parted ways with the partner that we ended up choosing a little earlier than we'd have wanted to. We realized that we had a need for continued backend development almost instantly.
We had been impressed with ImageX's proposal, including their backend knowledge of Drupal and Acquia, as well as their knowledge of best practices and open source code sharing. Our theming, branding, creative concept for content and user experience had all been completed, but we now needed a lot of help on the backend, including cleaning up some of the junk that our non-Drupal-savvy vendors provided us.
Could you provide a sense of the size of this initiative in financial terms?
Our total development cost for the work with ImageX has been around $200,000.
What is the status of this engagement?
Our relationship is ongoing.
Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?
There are two very strong points that make me continually satisfied with ImageX. The first is the fact that they are as committed to education as we are. Being an educational institution, we were looking for a partner who wouldn't just do some work, hand it over and not continue to assist us with it. As part of our relationship, we placed a huge emphasis on making sure that our frontend developer received training and documentation on the choices that were being made in Drupal. ImageX didn't provide specific PHP training, but rather showed our developer why they wrote the things that they did. This type of educational partnership has grown our success exponentially. When we need to lobby or advocate for new projects or new services, we're able to because we have this extended knowledge of the reasoning and logic behind the projects that we're creating. When we need to quickly troubleshoot something, we will at least know why that element isn't working, even if we won't have the ability to fix it. This has built up our on-staff knowledge, which we find to be extremely valuable, even if it's not something that can be quantified.
The second point is that ImageX built a set of customizable templates for faculty members on campus. This will allow us to essentially bring back faculty members who have not found a home on our main website due to the difficulty of editing it. They've come back to our domain, making our site as a whole a lot more leadership-oriented, providing a lot more content expertise.
For example, we have a group of humanities researchers who used to have their own website for their research lab. It had been built on Wordpress and was completely separated from our college. It only showed our logo at the bottom of their page. Moving back to our main domain, every hit that one of their research papers receives is additional traffic for us. We've become the home of these humanities researchers, being their founders and supporters at the same time. We're able to lock into that content and own it as much as they do, which is important to us as a university. We continually try to showcase the research and scholarships of our professors.
We will continue this project by opening our templates to student organizations and alumni chapters. We're working to get organizations across the world a presence on our .edu domain. We're receiving an increased viewership and audience which have also helped with our bounce rates and engagement. All in all, our work with ImageX has helped us increase staff education as well as increasing the number of quality viewers on our website.
Previously, there was no way for faculty to engage or to house content on our domain unless they were able to hand-code their own HTML and in-line CSS in a directory to which they had access. Now that there is a system in place, we have happy faculty and staff who are able to showcase their online presence through our site.
How did ImageX perform from a project management standpoint?
We had some issues with deadlines at the beginning of our relationship, but I think those were due to some staff turnover within their company. This is not something that should be passed down to the client by any means, but we have ironed all of those issues out and have developed a somewhat robotic system for keeping track of the work. It may seem that checking in twice a week regardless of the work that's being done is excessive, but it's definitely worth doing. An open line of communication helps us identify problems way before they become unmanageable.
Most of our communication was done through Skype, at our request, because it was important for us to keep all of our communication on the same platform. Screen sharing, conference calls and chatting are all done in one place. ImageX has been very responsive to this. I keep an open line with my project manager all day. Even though we have regular check-ups, I can ping her at any other time. She usually responds within ten minutes.
Could you offer any tips to potential clients?
Any prospective customer should engage in as much communication as possible and make sure that the questions asked are well thought-out. This may be a general user experience matter, but it's important to note that a vendor's staff is not physically a part of your company. The problems that a client conveys needs to be formulated clearly, with this in mind. In our experience, we found that, even though conversations on a daily basis may not be necessary, frequent communication and the tiny questions we've asked along the way helped build a better, more comprehensive product.