WordPress Migration Plan – 2015

School of Medicine: Website Migration to WordPress

Prepared by Ray Nedzel, Webmaster, UVA School of Medicine, (updated June 15, 2015)


After extensive consultation with web editors, web professionals, and usability experts, the School of Medicine (SOM) Webmaster – with support of the technology team – is reengineering the new School of Medicine website using WordPress – one of the world’s most popular Content Management Systems. The project began in 2013 moving iteratively to confirm best practices and optimize results for a school-wide transition. Of the 215 School of Medicine sites, 40 sites have been reengineered.  We propose a plan to convert the remaining sites between July 15 and December 15, 2015.


(see GANTT Chart for details; see work already completed for current status)

June 2015:

  • Migrate sites in queue
  • Complete SOM server build – with ITS, a scalable LAMP server, a virtual machine which can be cloned
  • Create a new development environment
  • Post temporary positions for July interviews and hires.
  • Develop communication plan
  • Secure Extended Server 2003 support


July 2015:

  • Test new site on new server with Shibboleth protection
  • Create web editor support desk interface on website
  • Begin weekly communication via virtual meetings
  • Migrate sites in queue from June
  • Interviews for temporary content coordinators
  • Establish training schedule and instructors
  • Complete backup of site due on the 15th and 30th
  • Begin site by site migration
  • Goal – 10 sites


August 2015:

  • Continue communication, training, backups, and site by site migration
  • Goal – 30 sites (40 sites to date)


September 2015:

  • Continue communication, training, backups, and site by site migration
  • Goal – 30 sites (70 sites to date)


October 2015:

  • Continue communication, training, backups, and site by site migration
  • Goal – 30 sites (110 sites to date)


November 2015:

  • Complete migration
  • Continue communication and training
  • Goal – 23 sites (133 sites to date – complete)


December 2015:

  • Complete all testing, redirects, patches.
  • Continue communication, training
  • Complete this phase of project by December 15, 2015
  • Gather requirements for any phase II work. Implementation of new features could begin Q1 2016.
  • Configure 301 redirects with HSTS WDC. Backup, then shut down the site in Plone.
  • December is a buffer month – a contingency month for handling delays in the project while still meeting our end date goal.

Project Management and Communications

Project Management

  • Ray Nedzel, School of Medicine Webmaster
  • Kim Holman, School of Medicine Project Manager
  • Support from School of Medicine IT team.

Communication for those working on the project

  • Web-based Gantt chart and Kanban boards will be used for project assignments and tracking.
  • Daily development notes from project team members will be uploaded to UVA box
  • Collaboratively edited documents (timelines and spreadsheets) will be overseen by the project manager and reside in Google docs.
  • Google hangouts, emails, and email chains will be used for ongoing project discussions. Project manager shall ensure that any conclusions drawn from these discussions will be incorporated, as appropriate, into project timeline changes and/or project notes.

Communication for those outside the project working group

  • Google hangouts will be open, and recorded.
  • Email, short presentations at administrator’s meetings, and ongoing training will be used to keep everyone in the loop.
  • Project reports will be delivered to the CIO to share with the Dean and managers monthly and also on request.

Features and Benefits of WordPress

  • Largest developer/user base on the web (22% of the web utilizes WordPress).
  • Mature technology. WordPress began in 2003 as a blogging platform and is now a scalable CMS with a large support base.
  • Easy to use and easy to learn for non-technology staff.
  • Large adoption rate in higher education.
  • Used by Health System Marketing for their blog and UVA Connect.
  • Easily extends and provides ways to share data from the application to other platforms.

Features and Benefits of VM LAMP Server Hosting with ITS

  • Local School of Medicine server administrator has direct working relationship with ITS Server Management.
  • ITS has reliable backups
  • In a virtual machine world, SOM only pays for what is needed
  • SOM IT servers have been built to be expandable without disruption of service.

Risks and Concerns

Shift of Responsibilities

SOM IT is moving from development and project based work to operational support very quickly. The current staffing model doesn’t support this shift. Due to this shift, SOM IT needs to develop very clear SLAs for off-hours and weekends, develop a strategy for support for future enhancements. Supersizing SOM IT machines could prevent the need to begin juggling resources during off hours. Conditions requiring alert notifications to SOM IT also need to be reviewed and improved.

Managing Load

There is the risk in terms of load, speed, and space. The current image has been built to be flexible, and much can be done in a fairly non-disruptive way. Increasing our server resources now is an option.

Managing User Access — And Types of Access

This is a new task for the School of Medicine.  Previously HSTS or ITS have managed the server access/accounts. WDC has managed the editor’s account access through LDAP and the CMS interface. The provision of the editors’ access will still be done on a site by site level – but Shibboleth (net badge) will provide the secure logon with the users’ managed UVA password. School of Medicine will be out of the password management business.

Need for Better Analytics and Reporting

SOM IT will have to provide analytics and auto generated reports, site by site, and yet have these managed though one analytics account. Although this is managed by the WDC in the current Plone site(s), ITS does not currently support this. SOM may need a consultant for one or two days to help configure the best extensible use of analytics and reporting.


The purpose of this plan is to migrate the content. There will be improvements and innovations along the way. Specializations and customizations which benefit the early adopter are available to all. A benefit of utilizing a CMS with the largest developer community is the accessibility of new services. Customization will be at the approval of the Webmaster.

Resources Required for Success

Focus of Web Team

The School of Medicine has over 200 sites which form the School of Medicine website. This is the time (July 2015 to Dec 2015) to focus on content migration. Responsive templates, integrated widgets, and dynamic feed capabilities are developed. Iterative testing has occurred and now is the time to migrate and then customize.

Two Temporary FTEs – Web Content Coordinators (6 month duration):

While the first 40 sites moved to WordPress involved risk of the unknown impact of WordPress, those involved also had the benefit working directly with web development professionals. Solving programmatic web issues as they arose was a great benefit. In moving content, however, this would be overkill. A dedicated web content coordinator would best serve the current need.

Possible Consultant(s)

Since SOM will be moving quickly with limited staff resources, it would be wise to have contingency resources available if the need to consult an expert should arise. Areas which could benefit include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing proper setup of analytics
  • Integrating Shibboleth security and logon.
  • Configuring efficient multi-site/multi-network WordPress instance.

Continued Support from HSTS and WDC

As of June 1, 2015, 80-percent of the School’s websites are hosted on HSTS servers and supported by the WDC.  This support throughout our migration, without interruption, is critical.  Naturally, over the course to the migration, the nature of work in some areas will lessen in volume; but the site uptime, the user support in Plone, and the collaboration stated in our SLA will need to continue through the end of migration.  

Extended Server 2003 Support:

The School’s current websites hosted by HSTS are on a Windows 2003 Server. These servers will need to be supported by HSTS during the migration period. Microsoft offers a support package that we should consider purchasing to mitigate risk.

Continued Collaboration with Health System Marketing Web Team

While the marketing department for the Health System primarily focuses on Medical Center promotion, SOM collaborates with the team and its individuals. For instance:

  • A new School news site developed in conjunction with the Marketing team will populate School news stories already written and produce video for featured stories on the School website.
  • has “Find a Doc” doctor profiles which would benefit SOM. “Find a Doc” links and feeds will help pull one set of data into many different places reducing duplications. This could also be utilized with Symplectic Elements in the future.

Departmental Support:

While a point person will be provided for each site to assist in the transfer, services such as application/server security, hosting, training, and redirecting, will be provided by the School of Medicine Digital Communications team. Each site migrated will need the support of the department – the Chair, the Administrator, or the web editor.

Continued Service Level Agreement with Departments

For the past 17 years, if a department at the School of Medicine desired a website, that individual department was responsible for the content and maintenance of the content of that site. Departments can expect to have the same promised uptime and editor support which they have had. With the migration, it is hoped that each department will experience more responsive support.

Each department will be assessed to determine their needs and understand the support they desire. During the consultations, which will occur with each department, recommendations will be made to assist those needing help with their content (writing, photos, editing, updating, etc.)


Current and New Editors

  • Instructor led training once per week for new editors or for anyone in the HS Library.
  • Online video training for all registered users.
  • Blog and communication updates addressing the most popular innovations and desired editing solutions.
  • A personal content migration specialist from the Dean’s Office during migration
  • A trained departmental web editor.
  • Assistance from current users of WordPress system.

Testimonials of Early (SOM) Adopters

  • Working … to build the Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development website was a lot of fun. Cathy and Ray made sure they understood what we were trying to accomplish with our new site. They laid out possibilities and asked great questions to make sure the website we were designing would best meet the needs of our target audience. – Troy Buer, Faculty Affairs
  • There are some tricky bits to learn – but overall, I find WordPress easy and intuitive. More flexible, and a much more attractive end-product. – Jane Perry – Department of Medicine.

Precedence in choosing WordPress:

  • The university has thousands of sites built in WordPress.
  • The School of Medicine has been using WordPress since 2007.
  • Health System Marketing/Communications team chose WordPress for UVA Connect with much success.
  • The HS Library has blogs in WordPress and other sites built in PHP/MySQL – WordPress underline language and database (along with MariaDB).
  • We have expertise in house.
  • WordPress has the largest developer community of any open source platform.

Work to date/prep work for migration:


  • Brought online two LAMP Servers (production and development) with ITS including virtual hosts, Pubcookie/NetBadge protection and SSL
  • Installed and tested WordPress instances as follows:
    • Multi-Network/Multi-Site WordPress instance (production)
    • Multi-Network/Multi-Site WordPress instance (development)
    • Multi-site instance for internal resources (NetBadge protected)
  • Created scalable, flexible WordPress Responsive Theme Framework for Basic Science Departments, Education, Administration, and Research based on the design for BIMS by Convoy.
  • Created custom WordPress plugins including:
    • Universal SOM top bar navigation with site-wide “Mega Menus”
    • Custom search including in-page integration of UVA People Search and Google Search/WordPress search from a single query
    • Custom Footer settings for departmental information
  • Coordinated manual and automatic replication of SOM mega menus with WDC
  • Built the RFD in WordPress integrating data from Curvita in nightly batch process.
  • Built responsive newsletter using WordPress theme.
  • Published first two news sites with static HTML newsletters (Medicine Matters and Kids Matter).
  • Published first newsletter site with automated RSS-driven MailChimp newsletter integration (Office of the Dean).
  • Worked with UPG and SOM Finance to create and launch online budget website to assist department administrators implement Clarity, including access-protected, embedded instructional videos hosted on Vimeo.
  • Completed seven site migrations by end of year with one additional site in development.


  • Built Clinical Research site out from scratch in new WordPress responsive theme.
  • Launched NEW Research Faculty Directory in WordPress including web services via RSS and JSON for use by external site developers.
  • Built custom WordPress plugin allowing WordPress department sites to include RFD data within their web sites.
  • Built Pharmacology as the first domain-level department allowing for quick creation sub-sites and labs within the department navigational scheme.
  • Completed 13 additional site migrations by end of the year with 19 additional sites in development.

2015 – Jan to July

  • Finished migrating Basic Science Departments Currently in Plone.
  • Built new CentOS Virtual ITS Server for better permissions granting and security via Shibboleth.
  • Built new Homepage for testing.
  • Built responsive WordPress theme based on UVA Health look and feel for clinical departments
  • Began moving education sites moved to WordPress.
  • Began testing and moving clinical departments – Surgery, Medicine, and Pediatrics
  • Published new NEWS site, and new SOM Homepage.
  • Posted and plan to hire content coordinator.