Sun Microsystems were our first customer and is essentially where our Gearbox CMS
began life. Sun needed an easy way to distribute information internally in such a way that is was very easy for any number of people to update that information, and even easier for all staff to be able to access it. A new website: SunWeb.UK was born. (Since this is an internal website, we cannot provide links for you to follow)
Just like all our other customers, Sun needed some very special custom Gears. Some to customise the look of the website, others to interact with various external systems and databases.
Call-out panels are a common theme on many of Sun's internal and external websites. Whilst simply HTML constructs with a few graphics, they are not that easy for an untrained user to replicate. We could have provided a module which simply dropped the skeleton code into a HTML module for the user to edit, but there seems to be much too much scope for error, and, when Sun next came to revamp their look and feel they'd need to update a huge number of pages. So, instead we built a custom module for them. The Gearbox CMS
admin prompts them for title, and content, asks various questions, eg. if the title should be a link, then generates the entire code for them. They can easily adjust the settings, or change the content. When they decided to change the look and feel of their call-out panels, we'll modify one Gear
and the new look will immediately be visible on hundreds of pages on the website.
Sun needed to publish department information such as department head, staff, contacts, another other department specific information. Much of this was already available electronically and maintained by Human Resources in their staff and organisation database. Rather than have the maintenance nightmare of keeping the website in sync with with these other systems, we simply created custom modules which queried these databases and populated the website dynamically. Now the moment HR update their staff database, that change is already visible on the website!
Similar modules link into Sun's customer and supplier databases allowing the website to always show up-to-the-minute customer and supplier contact information.
Team feedback form
At the completion of any project, team feedback forms need to be completed. paper forms have now been replaced with a custom form Gear
, which allows these to be completed via the website and the results immediately inserted an external database.
Managing the Content
In order to manage the website, user permissions and their custom modules, Sun have a bespoke Gearbox CMS
It took a little while to come up with an optimum method for managing who was able to edit what content. In the end, we chose a spectacularly simple, and just as successful method: The website owner (one member of staff) owns the homepage. Beneath there, various other pages were created, and ownership of those pages was given to various members of staff so that they could edit them, and create further pages below that. The permissions work by simply allowing a person to edit any page that they own, plus any page below that. So, the website owner can edit any page since they own the homepage! Any page owner can give ownership of a page they have created to another member of staff, or add another member of staff to a list os co-owners.
The login is linked to Sun's central LDAP system for authentication. When a user attempts to log in, the system checks that they have access to at least one page in the CMS
Admin, if so provided their password is verified by LDAP they are allowed in. No adding permitted users to some central list which would burden an administrator, the whole system is distributed and empowers the users themselves to delegate their responsibility as they see fit. Maybe not the ideal solution for every company, but for this application for Sun it was the perfect solution.