AMLI’s website was easy to use but difficult to maintain.
The website provided detailed information on AMLI apartment communities. The site featured special interactive maps that allowed renters to search for apartments in AMLI communities across the United States.
The interactive maps featured “hot spots” that corresponded to the locations of AMLI properties. Hot spots changed color when the user positioned the mouse over them; in addition, the information in the margin of the map changed to describe the corresponding AMLI apartment community.
If the user clicked a hot spot in an interactive map, the AMLI site displayed information on the corresponding AMLI apartment community.
The website made it easy for renters to find information on apartment communities. The problem with the site was that the information was static. The website stored information in more than one thousand separate pages. The static nature of the website created the following problems:
- Changing or updating the information in the website often required finding and changing a number of related pages. It was particularly difficult to make global changes—for example, to change the wording that was used to describe a common feature of all apartments—because such changes would require searching through a large number of pages individually.
- Changing the interactive maps was complicated. Each map actually required a number of related image files: the map image that would display depended on whether the user rolled the mouse over a hot spot or clicked a hot spot. Changing a map meant that a graphic designer would need to create new versions of a large number of image files.
- The site featured special Internet promotions that offered discounted rents for apartments. Because there were a large number of static pages to maintain, there was the risk that a page with the Internet promotional information would not be changed after the promotion had ended.
These problems made maintaining the website difficult, slow, expensive, and potentially risky. AMLI implemented change control procedures in the attempt to manage change and reduce risk.
AMLI needed a website that offered the same ease of use to renters but that was easier to maintain by AMLI’s back office.
Expert Object solution
Expert Object converted the AMLI website from a set of static Web pages to a completely data-driven system. The system consists of the following components:
- A content database contains the information that was originally in the static Web pages, including text and references to the images that formed the interactive maps.
- Scripts and template files build Web pages dynamically. The scripts populate pages with data that they obtain from the content database. The resulting dynamically generated pages are identical to the previous static pages.
- A Web update application allows AMLI staff to work with the data in the content database.
AMLI staff now change the website content by using the Web update application. Changes to the website no longer require expertise in Web design or graphics. Changes in the content database—including changes related to the interactive maps—appear in Web pages the next time that users view the pages. Global changes are now much easier to implement.
The Web update application includes change logs that simplify change control. The application also allows users to control the insertion and removal of temporary features such as special Internet promotions.
The AMLI website is now easier to maintain. Changes to the website’s content occur quickly and safely and require fewer resources.