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“BrightSpot is heavily optimized out of the box”

Early adopter Kevin Bauer shares his experience moving Life Sciences into BYU Websites.

As of this writing we’ve moved 32 sites to Brightspot, with about 70 more that we’re looking at moving (though I’m hoping to get approval to shut off a few of those).

Our experience with the migration has been mostly positive. At the beginning of the process PerfectSense did a content audit of our college and department sites and came back with several suggestions to improve the user experience on our sites. I kind of gave them free rein to implement those changes as they migrated the content for us, and while some of the departments balked and pushed back at some of the changes we wound up keeping a lot of them. Overall I think we’re very happy with the UI and UX on our college and department pages. It was also nice having PerfectSense help with the initial migration.

On July 31 st PerfectSense published the sites for the College of Life Sciences, its seven academic departments, and the Bean Life Science Museum. If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t launch all the sites at once, but it did force a response from departments who’d been non-responsive or ambivalent about the proposed changes until then.

Kevin Bauer and his four student employees stand outside the Life Sciences Building
The web team at Life Sciences. From left: Don Rodriguez, Darcy Zacchilli, Kevin Bauer, Deise Melo, and Brandon Derbidge.

Out of curiosity I had one of my students use GTMetrix.com to measure the performance of the old sites vs. the new ones on Brightspot. Across the board the Brightspot sites were about 3x faster and receiving ‘A’ grades in almost every category. While this is partly an indictment of the old sites, it demonstrates that Brightspot is heavily optimized out of the box. All these performance improvements came without my having to do anything to enable them. (See the performance scores for Microbiology & Molecular Biology below).

Since the initial launch we’ve been in the process of migrating faculty and lab websites. These sites are usually much smaller and can be done in a day or two by one of my students. We’ve also had help from Nate’s team on a few websites, so we’ve been steadily working through that list. During that time I’ve been able to get really familiar with Brightspot and everything it can do, and overall it feels like a powerful tool that does a good job of insulating the user from needing to understand the underlying HTML and CSS, but has hooks that a user with developer experience can use if needed.

With a few small exceptions working with images and files has been fantastic – it’s really nice to be able to upload a full-resolution image and let Brightspot handle the resizing/cropping/compressing. This saves us a bunch of time.

Not having to host and maintain the infrastructure for all these sites is a big burden lifted off of my shoulders.
Kevin Bauer

I also really like the way shared images and modules work – being able to share code across multiple pages and only have to update in one place is intuitive and powerful. I also like that for every page, image, attachment, or other piece of content we can see a history of all the changes and a list of every place it’s referenced. I’ve used both of those features heavily.

Working with Lists in Brightspot has also been really nice – I love being able to change the list template on the fly as needed and see it update in the preview pane instantly.

Not having to host and maintain the infrastructure for all these sites is a big burden lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer have to worry about maintaining the servers, upgrading the software, backups, CAS integration, etc. Once the migration is finished, we anticipate being able to shut down 6 server VMs in our data center.

I’ll also put in a plug for the Brightspot User Group meetings – I’d consider myself a Brightspot “power user” but every time I’ve gone to a meeting I’ve learned something new.

Page Performance Scores for Micribiology & Molecular Biology as measured by GTMetrix.

Scores on the left show performance after the department site moved intoBrightSpot while scores on the right reflect the website prior to migration.

Image: A table showing the page performance scores of the new and old department site.