2019
CLIENT
Banaras Hindu University
PROJECT

Decentralized Content Management System

MY ROLE

Responsible for project management, user research, ideation, interaction design and prototoype.

biggest residential university in Asia.

OVERVIEW

With over 30,000 students, the Banaras Hindu University is one of India’s most notable universities. Up until late 2018 the university had a static website that was a bundle of over a thousand web pages.

WHAT THE MANAGEMENT WANTED

Decentralization of Responsibilities. The University had over 140 departments and each Department wanted to manage its own content. And although, the Management wanted the same it wanted to ensure that nothing undesired is posted online by the Departments.

A Platform That Represents The BHU Culture. The university has over 30,000 students from India and across the globe. Its people find pride in its culture, diversity, and art. The Management and the Professors emphasized that the new web portal should showcase these aspects of the university online.

The Alumni & Students. The registrar wanted a website that celebrates the BHU Alumni and connects them with the University and its students. She emphasized that the new web portal shouldn’t at all be just a registration platform. Instead, she wanted it to be a place where both the alumni and the students, can engage and benefit from.

The entire BHU Project was a massive one, and therefore I’m only covering here the Unit Management Module that fulfilled the decentralization requirement of the Management. I wish to cover the rest of the project in a separate case study.

SKETCHING THE SCOPE OF WORK

THE UNITS

The university had departments that were inside its institutes. Some of these institutes were instead called ‘Faculties,’ like the Faculty of Arts. Some of these institutes were headed by Deans, and some were headed by Directors, and every department had a Head. The university also had other affiliated bodies.

Hardwiring a dedicated microsite to our CMS for every individual body was not a practical solution for many reasons. It would also have stretched the project development phase indefinitely.

My proposed portal referred to the microsites of these individual bodies as ‘units.’ The back-end lets the admin create as many units as needed. Every unit has a contact page and a landing page, by default. Every unit can have its own dynamic header and footer sections.

The admin can choose whether news, notices and events sections will be there in the unit or not. Content and new pages can be added to these units dynamically from the back-end. Any page would be created instantaneously every time its URL is called, just like in WordPress.

ADMINISTRATORS, MANAGERS & CONTRIBUTORS

Every one among those who headed these bodies wanted involvement in the new portal. Based on my interviews, I decided to classify the users into three types:

  • The administrators who have access over anything that is dynamically managed across this portal.

  • The managers who are the administrators of their assigned units.

  • The contributors who can upload content, but it requires approval from the managers/administrators to be published online.

WIREFRAMING

Based on all my research, I created my final wireframes while ensuring that:

  • The screens (forms) are simple and not crowded with too many questions, without compromising on the portal’s flexibility.

  • There should not be too many screens, lest the users get confused and take too much time to understand. I took my inspiration from WordPress in this case.

  • The module section designs are relatable and establish a visual hierarchy.

  • They are not too complex as a solution from the development perspective. I already had at least one version of the navigation sub-module that would have taken our developers longer than usual to create.

THE PROTOTYPE

CREATE AND MANAGE UNITS

The administrators can, on this screen, create microsites that on our interface are called units. He can assign managers and contributors to this unit.

Some departments wanted to show academic events and notices on their microsites, while some even wanted a news section. The plugin checkboxes on this screen lets the admin decide which units will have news, notices and events sub-modules in their units.

The parent unit option will let the application allow the flow of information across other microsites. I had added this option for a separate program and courses module that has not been covered in this case study.I have also added a type classification for units, this would provide filters when the user would be searching across more than 150 microsites of the Banaras Hindu University.

MANAGE USERS

I had to add a screen to let the admin add and manage users. This window like the previous screens is only accessible to the administrator and not the managers.

The university management wanted to keep a record of their users’ last activities, which is why it has been reflected here.The new user form opens up in a pop-up window, just like the ‘Create Unit’ form. The buttons on the left against the options, accordingly open different forms on the right side on the window.This module is linked to an SMS gateway that shares an email/SMS with the newly registered users. The users can click on the hyperlinks in the email or SMS to proceed to generate passwords and gain access.

POST AND PAGES

The page redirects appear in the navigation menus, and the posts (news, notices, and academic events) appear in their dedicated sections on the unit homepages and on their own dedicated pages. Users can choose to save pages/posts as drafts or publish them online.

This sub-module is accessible to unit managers and contributors as well. They can view and edit all the pages and posts associated with their units. However, posts written or edited by contributors require approval from the administrators or managers.

The first screen of this sub-module shows all the important details of posts and pages in its lists.

Users can ensure good SEO with custom title, URL and meta-tags. I advised my development teams to not create our own custom text editor for many reasons, including budget and time.

We used the CK Editor instead, for it was very flexible and tested. The users could even custom design the associated section of its page from this editor.

CONTENT APPROVAL

I had to add an approval step for posts and pages that were created or edited by the contributors.

This step was necessary for many reasons, the most important one being that the site managers were accountable to the BHU administration. The contributors being students required supervision.

The pages and post lists are accessible through the dropdown on the top-left above the list. The ‘View’ button opens the page/posts on a new window on Google Chrome.

This screen is not accessible to the contributors.

SITE NAVIGATION

I had seen in my site audit, that a header element on the client’s old website can redirect to a microsite, an external website, a page or a download link. Therefore, while designing this navigation manager I ensured that it lets the admin and managers create these redirects.

Like the previous sub-module, this module too restricts the managers’ access rights to just their units’ navigation management. This sub-module is not accessible to contributors.

This screen lets users manage the entire unit navigation (header and footer). Users can edit a menu element (its name and redirect URL) or add a sub-menu element to it that would appear in its dropdown in the frontend.

RESULTS AND TAKEAWAYS

The unit management module was the first thing that was developed in this project for obvious reasons. There was a lot of data that had to be published online.

Because of the user-hierarchy that I had created, the department representatives didn’t need external website management teams for managing their microsites. This pulled them into active website management and defined their accountability.

I had to spend 15 days at the Banaras Hindu University to train the University representatives on working with the CMS. The outspoken management and faculty members were impressed with our solution.

The BHU project was hailed by many people in the Management as part of the India's digital ‘revolution,’ that the Banaras Hindu University joined late.

By late 2019 I left BSN Infotech and thus the project as well. I’m emotionally attached to this project because I learned so much while designing it, and I’d be willing to help with UI improvisation if the BHU ask for it.