Site study: Trade New Zealand gets personal

Part of Trade New Zealand's brief for its revamped website was that non-technical people be able to put up stories and graphics and it should be able to be easily updated by people for whom English is not their first language.

Part of Trade New Zealand's brief for its revamped website was that non-technical people be able to put up stories and graphics without having to rely on support staff to do so.

While that's not uncommon in the world of corporate websites, a further requirement was that the site should be able to be easily updated by people for whom English is not their first language.

"We've recently had a WAN upgrade which means a lot of our offshore offices are now able to participate in our e-business programme," says website manager Greg Jack. "It means people are able to use [the site] a lot more easily as required."

The new site is really four sites combined. Trade New Zealand has decided to make finding the right information easier by dividing the site into four main areas -- exporters, importers, investors and students, each offering advice, case studies and subscription services. In future the site is intended to allow personalisation services for exporters, down to sub-sector and product levels.

The site was developed using Microsoft Visual Dev combined with Vignette's integrated development environment running on SQL Server 2000. Vignette is the platform of choice for content management at Trade NZ, which is the first local site to integrate Vignette with Microsoft active server pages (ASP) rather than Java server pages (JSP) or the TCL scripting language, alternative methods for controlling the content and appearance of web pages. It is also an early user of Web Edit Pro, a module in version 6.5 of Vignette's software that provides a word processor-like interface and allows instant transformation of text into HTML.

"We principally work with text and use Web Edit Pro, which is embedded in our content management template," says Jack. "That allows non-technical users to edit our content in line with our style guide. They can add links to documents and other sites, to insert graphics and all the basic word processing things as well."

Cascading style sheets enable the site users to avoid breaking the look and feel of the site.

"Vignette enables you to handle content, or any form of digital asset, in a number of ways. You can involve them in workflow and we're just doing that in the form of text at the moment, but in the future we can manage all sorts of digital assets."

The new version of Vignette has included more content aggregation control."The content aggregation server will allow us to automatically aggregate on a scheduled basis content from any site or remote database that we have relationships with."

Content received in such a manner is simply added to the normal Trade NZ workflow process.

"It goes through our normal QA process, whatever that is that we've set up, and then we publish it," says Jack. "It also allows us to go to any website, log on, to identify a pattern within a page and then bring back the content and add it to our database."

That allows Trade NZ to automate the collection and colation of information and spend more time personalising and customising reports.

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