Open University Business School Project Unite

Back in 2009 The Open University's Faculty of Business and Law had four different websites (and content management systems) for the Business School, Law School, Alumni, and Research. The Faculty decided to replace these four websites with a single 'needs-based' website, hosted and managed internally; and due to our involvement in the successful launch of their Global MBA pilot website they hired Muon to do the job.

Business challenge

Project Unite stakeholders met with project managers,  a graphic designer and Muon's developer on a weekly basis. The stakeholders included Faculty Directors, content owners for the four websites, and senior representatives from The Open University's Online Communications, Student Services, Marketing and IT departments. Faculty Directors wanted distinctive designs and brand colours for Business and Law, while Online Communications wanted to ensure consistency with other faculty sites and the university as a whole. The website owners were concerned that their content could be lost in a combined information architecture and they wanted to ensure they did not lose any functionality either, while the IT department wanted to keep custom code and non-core Drupal modules to a minimum. Reproducing existing functionality and adding new functionality in a restricted development environment was the key challenge for our developer and he acted as a technical go-between on the project with the difficult task of keeping all stakeholders happy. 

The solution

Our developer initially worked onsite at The Open University to take part in meetings and work closely with all Project Unite stakeholders. He wrote a Functional and Technical Specification for the project, he was involved in card sorting sessions to develop the site's information architecture, and he worked with a graphic designer to finetune prototypes and turn the final designs into content managed web pages.

We took a phased approach to migrating content and data from the four websites into one Drupal 6 site in the following order, where all releases were tested by stakeholders on acceptance test servers before launch:

  1. For the initial launch in July 2010, timed to coincide with an MBA marketing campaign, newly created Business School content pages targeted at five student types were added manually to the new website, while staff profile and press release pages were populated automatically using data migration scripts. Links to the old Business School site were redirected to the new one.
  2. For the second phase launch in November 2010, new sections, content pages (including access controlled alumni-only pages) and web forms were added manually to the site to replace the old Alumni and Law websites, and, working with the OU's Finance department, we integrated a custom Drupal module so that credit card payments could be taken on the site for Alumni events.
  3. The third and final phase launch in July 2011 was for the Research section of the website. Muon developed migration scripts to extract data and data relations from the Research SQL database and used those data to automatically populate the new Drupal website and recreate the established entity relationships between staff, students, projects, themes and publications that existed on the old website. The Drupal Bibliography module was used for storing, importing and exporting publications in the new website. Muon also developed a People Profiles system for use by all OU faculties and this was integrated into the new Research section for Business and Law.

The results

Following the launch of the complete website ( we delivered a comprehensive user guide for authors, editors and website administrators in 2012 and migrated the site to Drupal 7 in 2013. We continue to support and develop the site to this day.

Project Unite had fallen into disarray and had a range of complexities for Muon to tackle, but working together we managed to create one unified site that could externally and internally represent the OU's Faculty of Business and Law.

Hannah Gore, Senior Producer: Social & Syndication, The Open University
Screenshot of OU FBL website user guide page 9 with a diagram of labelled home page blocks showing how page is constucted
Fig 1: A cropped page from the FBL website user guide showing home page regions and blocks
An object relationship diagram for the FBL website using external data feeds of people profiles and ORO publications
Fig 2: A (partial) object relationship diagram for the FBL website with external data feeds
A page from the FBL website functional specification, including an object relationship diagram
Fig 3: A page from the FBL website Functional and Technical specification, including an object relationship diagram