mStoner + Buzzr = Hosted, Easy-to-Use, Drupal-Based CMS for HED
Our bread and butter project over the last ten years has been a campus-wide website redesign and implementation. Along the way, we’ve completed more projects like this than any other company in the world.
Within this type of project we provide end-to-end services, starting with an institution-wide web strategy, creative design, and configuration and customization of a web content management system (CMS). We never let our technical implementation constrain our strategy or creative process and, as a result, each project involves a high level of customization and an enterprise-wide CMS (we recommend Hannon Hill Cascade Server, Sitecore CMS, OmniUpdate OU Campus, Drupal, or TerminalFOUR Site Manager to our clients, depending upon their needs, and also explore other CMSs in certain cases).
We love these projects: each one is unique and challenging and we don’t see them going away in the future. But they take at least nine to twelve months and they’re expensive. And, after doing this work for more than a decade, we’ve noted a number of trends and market demands from our clients around their CMS needs:
- Many institutions that we talk with do not need a highly customized CMS implementation and often cannot afford or sustain one. Yet they benefit from the same level of strategic and creative consulting that we offer in a typical full-scale redesign.
- Drupal is a great CMS platform (by far the best open source option), well suited for higher education, and with significant and growing market share.
- BUT: Drupal doesn’t have a user-friendly back end, making it difficult for non-technical people to use.
In sum: A lot of our clients really need a simple, straight-forward version of Drupal with a simple back end. We looked for a solution and we even tried to build one ourselves. But we couldn’t find the time to do it right.
Buzzr, in partnership with Lullabot, a leader in Drupal training and implementation, developed software to optimize Drupal as a content management platform. Essentially, Buzzr enables non-technical users to manage their sites more effectively through a simple and elegant user interface using drag-and-drop tools. It can also support multiple sites on a single Drupal instance with shared users. Buzzr includes a QuickStart tool that makes creating new sites possible in a few clicks.
But what we like best about Buzzr is that there is no lock-in. Buzzr customers can opt-out, export their site, and have it up and running as a “regular” Drupal site in short order (for a nominal fee).
We are excited to announce a partnership with Buzzr to build a Higher Ed Edition of the Buzzr platform. This partnership will marry Buzzr’s product development and deep Drupal expertise with mStoner’s years of experience in building highly functional and usable websites for colleges and universities.
For the right institutions, Buzzr offers something that these solutions do not. “We love that Buzzr can make it cheaper and easier for an institution to accomplish its mission,” said Ed Sussman, CEO of Buzzr. “What’s more, we think Buzzr’s slick user interface takes what was a chore – maintaining a website – and makes it more fun.”
The Buzzr Higher Ed Edition will be hosted at Rackspace and fully supported by mStoner on an ongoing basis in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. mStoner designs will be built into the platform. We anticipate setting up pre-built feature tiers as well as tiered ongoing support plans.
For larger, more complex institutions who may already have a custom top-level site (especially a custom Drupal site), we see a role for Buzzr Higher Ed Edition as a user-friendly solution for managing the myriad unit-level sites on campus. These smaller sites are typically managed by occasional, non-technical CMS users who would greatly benefit from the Buzzr user interface. For the institution, Buzzr’s multi-site capability keeps these sites on-brand and enables them to be managed from a single, institution-specific platform.
Buzzr Higher Ed Edition is complementary to our existing services (not a threat to them). We remain 100% committed to helping our clients find the best-fit CMS platform for their unique needs and we will continue to partner with our friends at Hannon Hill, OmniUpdate, Sitecore and TerminalFOUR to deliver feature-rich, customized sites and CMS. Likewise, we will continue to build and support custom Drupal sites.
We are very excited about this opportunity as it will expand our ability to service the higher education market with our marketing and communications expertise. Be on the lookout for for future blog posts with updates on our progress.