UW System CommonSpot Training Preparation

PaperThin typically holds CommonSpot training sessions in Boston, but with our UW System size and combined interest, PaperThin will be coming to Wisconsin to hold training sessions this spring.

There is a chance UW-Green Bay will host the Fundamentals session, which would save us even more training dollars.

The three tentative training sessions being planned for local scheduling are:

CommonSpot Fundamentals

This three-day in-depth, hands-on technical training provides a comprehensive review of CommonSpot’s powerful features, and offers best practices for developing simple to dynamic websites.

Designed to introduce developers, webmasters, and administrators to the basics of CommonSpot, this training program provides high value. If you are new to CommonSpot, you’re sure to come away with numerous tips and techniques that will save you development time and effort.

You’ll learn how to… Organize a site for conversion to CommonSpot, Create custom base templates for a site, Construct a flexible template hierarchy, Lock down templates for use by page authors, Implement style sheet support in a site, Integrate your own ColdFusion applications, Reuse content within pages of a site, Construct custom page metadata to categorize content, Drive dynamic page links with custom metadata, Create and use custom elements, Create RSS feeds, lists of feeds, and live bookmarks, XML publication, XML rendering, And more!

CommonSpot Advanced Developers

This three-day technical training takes you through best practices for customizing and developing a site in CommonSpot. It combines solid, classroom-based and hands-on learning.

Designed for experienced CommonSpot developers, administrators, and designers, the course explores the inner workings of CommonSpot. It provides an in-depth review of CommonSpot’s main integration points and advanced features like the base template, content creation API, custom script element, datasheet element, render handler, and custom field type, among others.

The course highlights recommended practices and discusses hidden developer techniques and tips that will save you significant development time and effort. You’ll learn how to effectively utilize and deploy CommonSpot’s advanced functionality while extracting the most value from these features.

CommonSpot Application Development Framework

This four-day in-depth technical training includes a one-day of review of Advanced Developers training, and three days of the new CommonSpot v6 Application Development Framework (ADF).

CommonSpot’s powerful application development framework makes it easy to develop new applications, customize existing applications, and move them into production using the system’s out-of-the-box APIs and UI components. Once completed, CommonSpot users can share new applications with others in the CommonSpot community in an open source-like fashion.

The ADF jumpstarts application development initiatives by shaving time off of projects that would otherwise take months to code.

PaperThin’s CommonSpot 6.0 Selected as Web CMS

Taking into account our identified requirements, support availability, and training options, PaperThin’s CommonSpot 6.0 has been selected as UW-Green Bay’s Web CMS solution.

Five other UW System campuses are already on board with CommonSpot:

  • UW-Eau Claire
  • UW-Milwaukee
  • UW-River Falls
  • UW-Stout
  • UW-Superior

In talks with these campuses, we found them to be very generous in sharing information. In addition, CommonSpot was an existing UW System vendor with a contract already in place.

Benefits of using an existing contract:

  • Cost sharing – initial license and annual maintenance is divided
  • Knowledge sharing – lessons learned, custom elements, system setup, best practices, documentation, training materials, etc.…
  • Rejecting an existing contract requires evidence of why it will not work for us
  • Using a non-contracted vendor requires completing a full RFP

Although open-source solutions were considered, we found that often the low up-front cost only leads to higher costs down the road with third-party support, consulting, and maintenance.

CommonSpot runs on Adobe’s ColdFusion, but can support a number of scripting languages (limited only by the server setup) including ASP.NET, .ASP, .PHP, .CFM, and Java. There is also a CommonSpot Application Development Framework (ADF) which makes it easy to develop new applications, customize existing applications, and move them into production using the system’s out-of-the-box APIs and UI components. Once completed, CommonSpot users can share new applications with others in the CommonSpot community in an open source-like fashion.

Information Services will be hosting and supporting CommonSpot in-house. With this internal expertise, we will be fully capable of supporting our campus on this system.

Web CMS Requirements Identified

During our CMS review, the following requirements and concerns were considered.


  • Basics: Allow non-technical user to create, delete, edit, and organize pages within their realm of authority
  • Easy content creation and editing for non-technical content contributors
  • Content check-out/check-in to avoid overwrite
  • Content scheduling and expiration
  • Archival and versioning of content, allowing rollback when needed (Does it roll back to previous version or back to a previous date of my choosing?)
  • Support of content output templates (layered templates preferred)
  • How are templates managed?
  • Is XSLT required for templating?
  • Content Accessibility (Section 508) & Standards compliance (validation preferred)
  • Editor handles assets such as images, PDFs, and Word documents, forcing the content provider to add ALT attributes to images.
  • Content reuse
  • Content organization
  • Dead link reporting
  • SEO-friendly
  • Allow easy paste from Word
  • DAM features for photo management
  • Online forms – At a minimum, does it support forms and collect the responses? How does this work? Can it write to Oracle?
  • Does the content editor undermine the consistency of design and branding by allowing too much customization? The editor should allow the content provider to mark up headings, lists, links, and other elements without dictating how they should appear. If this is not standard, be sure the CMS allows the editor to be replaced with a more appropriate solution.


  • Access control and entitlement (permissions) – levels that can vary by directory or page
  • Users assigned privileges based on group and role
  • LDAP Authentication
  • Audit trail
  • Can a user other than Web Services be set as an approver for their area of authority?


  • Workflow to mirror business processes
  • Reports – What is available? (What will we require on a regular basis?)
  • Search – Would we continue to use our Google Mini? If not, does the search index PDFs, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents? How often does it index? Can we limit the scope of a search to a section of the site? How is ranking determined? Can we control how results are returned and customize the design?
  • Blog
  • RSS/Newsfeeds
  • Breadcrumbs – how do they work?


  • In-house hosting
  • Acceptable publishing model
  • Support of development/staging/production environments and synchronization between them
  • Support PHP, .ASP and ASP.NET
  • CSS
  • Support friendly URLs (human-readable, navigational)
  • Make use of Oracle 10g or 11g
  • Multi-site support
  • API to connect to other business systems
  • Available developer/support community
  • Documentation/training for users and developers
  • Development flexibility
  • Allow for growth


  • Multilingual support
  • Calendar system
  • Newsletters
  • Forums
  • Dynamic sitemap
  • Photo gallery
  • Chat?
  • Blogs?


  • What support is available?
  • What is the time-to-implement?

CMS Watch Report

Web Services has decided to use the CMS Watch report as part of our research. Today we downloaded the 2010 Web Content Management report and are eager to dive in.

We’re making an important decision for the future of our University website, and are interested in as much relevant detail as possible. The Web CMS Report gives us comprehensive product evaluations that will save us precious time.

All of the CMS products that we currently have our eye on were included in this report. In addition, the report will help us evaluate:

  • What do we really need? / What are our true requirements?
  • How will the CMS work for us?
  • What are the various CMS solutions capable of?
  • How do we begin to objectively compare vendors and products?
  • How do our finalists compare?

As a bonus, the report includes a section on “Advice, Pitfalls, and Best Practices” that can help us anticipate common challenges.

UW-Green Bay Web CMS Evaluation Continues

Web Services continues to evaluate Web CMS solutions and vendors. As this progresses, we’d like to share some information on WHY we are moving in this direction. Let us know your questions.

What is a Web CMS?

Content management refers to the system and processes whereby information is created, managed, published, and archived. A content management system (CMS) provides the necessary infrastructure for multiple persons to effectively contribute content and collaborate throughout this lifecycle.

Online information must be continually reviewed and updated by content editors so that other content consumers, including customers and search engines, have access to the most up-to-date version.

Subject matter experts are forced to more rapidly maintain and update information for their constituents. Prior to the Internet, it was acceptable to publish new information on a quarterly basis, whereas now important information is expected to be immediately available online.

A CMS typically offers:

  • Easy content creation and editing for non-technical content contributors
  • Access rights for security
  • Structured workflow processes for content approvals
  • Archival and versioning of content
  • Templates for consistent output
  • Content check-in/check-out services for distributed users

Benefits of Using a CMS:

  • Subject matter experts can update their online information quickly and efficiently without technical intervention.
  • Common tasks like checking for dead links, archiving old pages, and generating navigational menus are done by the CMS.
  • Content can be scheduled in advance to be published at a specific date and time. The CMS can also expire content at a predefined time.
  • Associated images and files for content are published by the CMS, reducing the burden of finding the necessary assets.
  • A frequently updated site will encourage customers to return.
  • The audit trail, available at both the user and content level, provides a snapshot of the history of content changes.
  • With version control (automatic backup as changes are made), users have peace of mind that any mistakes will not cause lost information.
  • Content is presented within pre-defined templates whenever possible. Templates help maintain a cohesive look and feel, creating a professional image. The use of consistent navigation menus and layout does not force the visitor to relearn site conventions.
  • Brand integrity is maintained by limiting layout choices in a manner consistent with university style guidelines.