Insight 2015 – The Message Systems User Conference

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Every year my company puts on the Message Systems User Conference, and I build a new site with a fresh design each time. This year, we finally decided to build Insight’s website within our Drupal framework instead of using a home-brew PHP system.

The Foundation

Our corporate website MessageSystems.com has been heavily customized to support our flexible, modular slice-based layouts we’ve been using since the site went responsive. This year’s Message Systems User Conference site was going to use a similar format and there was no need to reinvent the wheel.

Each page pulls in the slices from other independently responsive nodes we call Widgets (generic, I know). Users can pull these Widgets into different regions of the site and they’ll react to fill their container gracefully. For example, placing them in the sidebar has a completely different appearance for some of them than leaving them as standalone slices. This was all built-in before we started this project.

The New Features

Depending on when you’re reading this, some of these new features haven’t been made available to the public yet. It doesn’t make sense for us to start populating the event’s speakers, schedule and sponsors until we had enough finalized content to make it worthwhile. As the details get ironed out in the coming months, more of these features will go live.

  • Content Type: Companies
    We used to have separate content types for our various partners, customers, charitable organizations, etc. They started off all having different specs, but in our recent site transition that was no longer the case. We condensed them all into a single content type and added in several new features that would allow us to use the logos, company descriptions and other info elsewhere.
  • Content Type: Biographies
    We upgraded our existing bio system that was previously set up for our Leadership Team page to work for Speaker descriptions on the conference site as well.
  • Content Type: Conference Session
    Obviously, if we’re going to have a schedule that lists all of the different sessions we’ll need to keep track of them. We chose to do this in an independently editable format that’s as easy as possible for coders and non-coders alike to work on.

All three of these new or upgraded content types are now intermingled for the sake of the Insight Message Systems User Conference site. When creating a Conference Session, the user just needs to type in the name of the speaker/panelist hosting it and the back-end will automatically pull in that person’s bio. When creating a Biography for a speaker, the user types in the name of their affiliated company the same way. It pulls in the company’s logo, website URL(s), description, etc.

Once we publish the Conference Sessions, they are placed into a grid-like Agenda that establishes the time and track of the session. When the Agenda page is ready, it should look something like this:

insight2015-agenda-mobile
The mobile version.

insight2015-agenda

All of the Session and speaker info in these screenshots are fake placeholder text.

We’ll also have a full Speakers page that lists everyone assigned to a Conference Session and allows the user to click on their photo to see their full bio:

Mobile version.
Mobile version.

insight2015-speakers

You can find the full site at MessageSystems.com/insight.

My Part

All of these beautiful layouts were designed by our Creative Services Manager, Lynn Murphy. She did so with direction from our Marketing Events Coordinator Marketing Programs Manager Jennifer Cooper (oops! She’s always checking my work for me. Thanks Jen!). I was responsible for executing the final product.

With the help of my small team of developers, we built the entire Message Systems User Conference site to be fully responsive and editable by anyone internally without the need for coding. Most of my contribution was in the architecture and management, but I also assisted with some of the coding.

It was a huge undertaking, but the framework we built this year will persist into the future. We’ll just need to re-skin it each year.

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