Total cost of ownership includes the ability to easily change and update a Web site, the ICTC president said. "And that was costing us the most."
ICTC considered several alternative systems such as Adobe Cold Fusion, Adobe Flex and even a PHP-based CMS, but eventually opted for .Net 3.5 Framework in a bid to standardize the Council's Microsoft-based applications.
The Ottawa branch of Macadamian Technologies, a technology integrator, rebuilt the DiscoverIT site and created a new CMS on the .Net 3.5 Framework.
It used Visual Studio 2008 for development, Microsoft Expression Web 2.0 to design the graphics, and Microsoft Silverlight for video capability.
The site was moved to a machine running Windows Server 2008 operating system.
ICTC put in around CA$50,000 towards the project, while corporate sponsors chipped in the form of cash, labour and material donations, said Swinwood.
The main implementation challenge was integrating three vital components of DiscoverIT so as to streamline site management, said Sebastien Giroux, Macadamian's project manager for the assignment.
He said the site's universal search tool and CMS used PHP while its glossary was on CGI Script. "The three accounts worked on three different programs that did not integrate so it was always a challenge for a non-techie to do any update."
Standardizing on Microsoft software centralized and simplified site administration so even non-technical staff members can now load new content to the site, he said.
During the three-month project, Macadamian also integrated several user interface features to make it easier for ICTC clients to access site features, said Lorraine Chapman, project manager of the integrator's user experience group.
She said a key challenge with the older system was that users found it very hard to navigate the site. "The features were not intuitive and users often got lost trying to follow the steps provided by the site."
Security features that barred different types of users from certain site sections also needed to be rationalized in line with user needs. For example the student section was off limits to parents. And yet, the section contained information on co-op programs and course payment methods that would have been valuable to parents.
Access to data was reorganized to allow each type of user more access to relevant data. A single sign-on feature was also installed so that visitors no longer need to remember numerous passwords to access multiple Web applications.
Chapman said the revamp also automated the certificate printing process.
ICTC provides certificates to students who finish certain technology subjects. The students can use these certificates to gain extra credits or advance standing in colleges when they apply for technology courses.
With the older system, certificates could only be printed one at a time at the ICTC premises. This was very cumbersome for ICTC staff that had to print and mail out certificates.
The new site now allows teachers, with proper authorization, to print the certificates in batches and print documents at their location.
Microsoft Silverlight, a Web browser plug-in that provides support for rich Internet applications, also provides ICTC with audio-video playback and animation creation capabilities.
For Swinwood, the main benefit of the .Net Framework-based CMS, is that existing staff can manage the site with very minor IT assistance, leaving the Council's lone IT person to tackle other essential tasks.