CDH Web 2.0 is live!

The CDH recently unveiled its new web site with a soft launch coinciding with our Fall Open House. We’re very excited to showcase the work of our development team, and also to create a new foundation for future expansion.

The old website, which served for the 2016-2017 year, was the first CDH web project to use the Python web framework Django as its backend, along with Mezzanine to provide content-management functionality. It gave us an opportunity to field test some of the technologies that are going into our projects during the current and upcoming academic year, as well as deployment paths for our projects on VMs managed by Research Computing.

It, however, also suffered from being written quickly in a roughly two-week period and being a first time out for new technologies. The inspiration for CDH Web 2.0 came out of those limitations, and it gave us a chance to backport the best practices we’ve developed in our sponsored projects, as well as try out some new things we’ll be using in our projects alongside the core of Django and Mezzanine. For example, login and authentication on the new site’s backend is handled by django-pucas, a CDH-written wrapper for django-cas-ng that gives us a reusable set of Princeton specific adaptations for user authentication. We’re also using a SASS framework called Bourbon Neat, which helps us lay out the site quickly and cleanly, with a minimum of browser incompatibilities. We couple this with a django plugin called django-compressor that streamlines the many Javascript and stylesheet assets that make up a modern website into a handful of minified packages. The upshot is quicker load times and more consistent performance.

CDH Web 2.0 has also been a chance to bring the design philosophies that underlie our work here to bear on our development, starting with Jean Bauer’s database model for the new site. Her model captures the tasks, work, and social world of the CDH so that our web site can produce data points that capture what we care about. The website also mirrors the collaborative ethos of the center, from the bulk of the coding written by Rebecca Koeser, the design work of Xinyi Li, the testing and QA assistance of our management team, especially Rebecca Munson, and the new automated deployment chain integrating Ansible by yours truly. It took a village—or in this case, a center.

Now that we have the website refactored, thoroughly unit tested, and part of an ecosystem of projects, we plan to introduce new features in the upcoming year and keep expanding its functionality as a test bed for our own continued work. As a result, it should become more useful for us and for our audience in the Princeton, DH, and broader academic communities.

P.S. The code is also available on Github. Check it out!

Keywords: software development
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