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United States Naval Institute

Award Category 
Drupal Version 
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Brief Overview 

The United States Naval Institute (USNI) website, built on Drupal, has served to further its mission and bring it to a position of technological leadership among military nonprofits. With a responsive design, business process automation, and high performance availability, USNI.org delivers tremendous value to the organization and its members.

Launch or Publication Date 
Friday, April 6, 2012
USNI News
Key Modules, Theme, and Distribution Used 
USNI.org was built on Drupal 6 with a custom theme. There were many key contributed models used in the development of USNI.org with several custom modules also developed. Among the modules leveraged for this website were: Apache Solr, UberCart, Views, Web Services, Ad Module, CCK, Boost, and custom modules to integrate the USNI ERP and events systems among others.
Why these Modules, Theme, and Distribution were Chosen 

 

Drupal 6 was chosen as the distribution for USNI because a substantial amount of development work had been undertaken prior to the release of Drupal 7. The final phase of the site was launched in 2012, including the custom theme that supports the current design, but early work to the site was undertaken in 2010 and 2011 when Drupal 7 was in its infancy. The following modules were selected 

  • Apache Solr Search - Solr delivers superior search results quickly to online visitors. Unleashed Technologies uses Solr in conjunction with several other search modules (i.e. Search API Autocomplete) to customize and further enhance search functionality and results. 
  • Uber Cart - Uber Cart was chosen because of its ease of use and flexibility as the eCommerce engine for the online sale of gift products, memberships, donations and event registrations across the site. 
  • Ad Module - This module was installed and customized to handle the advertisements required by USNI. 
  • Views – The Views module enhances the user interface by allowing us to display a large amount of content on the USNI.org site.
  • Content Construction Kit - This module was essential for adding fields to nodes.
  • Boost – Because USNI.org was built on Drupal 6, it does not natively support Varnish. Unleashed Technologies is very focused on optimizing the sites we build for high performance availability with sub-two second load times. In order to optimize USNI.org, we chose Boost because of its cacheing functionality for high performance availability. We used NGINX in addition to Boost because, unlike Apache, it doesn’t use a tremendous amount of memory and is very stable.
  • Custom Event Registration- Unleashed Technologies developed a custom event registration system and module for USNI that supported its unique business processes. Functionality included enabled them to be able to define fields available for registration, register multiple people at once and integrate with UberCart.
  • Aggregator - This module was chosen because of its ability to aggregate web content. Unleashed Technologies customized this module to enable USNI to aggregate top daily stories from across the web property to meet their specific requirements. 
  • USNIERPConnector – A custom module developed to integrate the Drupal database with USNI’s ERP system. Because of USNI’s unique requirements and leveraging the flexibility of Drupal, Unleashed Technologies was able to integrate these two platforms in order to provide a common repository for USNI’s membership and business data. 
Owner's Name 
United States Naval Institute
Development Company 
Unleashed Technologies
Unleashed Technologies offers unparalleled Drupal design, development and integration capabilities backed by a proprietary enterprise hosting environment. Unleashed Technologies solves difficult web technology problems through building, planning and providing continuing support for websites and web applications. We are Drupal experts with a specialization in nonprofits, publications and other web presences that require multiple integrations and complex content management considerations.
Why Drupal Was Chosen 
Drupal was chosen to serve as the content management system (CMS) for USNI.org because of its highly flexible capabilities and its strengths in handling large volumes of content.
Describe the Project (Goals, Requirements, and Outcome) 

Goals

USNI publishes two magazines and a blog that are widely read by mid-grade and junior military personnel. In order to appeal to this readership and establish itself as a leader among military nonprofits, USNI wanted a design that not only reflected the mission of the organization, but also incorporated the latest in web technology. USNI delivers a lot of content to its readers and had to manually correlate similar articles. This activity was particularly challenging because different departments were responsible for managing their own content, making correlating content across those departments very complex.

Additionally, as with any members-based organization, USNI was challenged with keeping its records up to date. USNI had disparate databases that all had to be updated manually, taking hundreds of hours a year and impacting data accuracy. They needed a way to centralize their member information to keep all records continually current.

Finally, USNI articles had been posted on the Drudge Report on numerous occasions, causing significant impact to site load times and user experience during those events. USNI needed a site that was fully optimized with caching for high performance availability.

Requirements

USNI required a flexible, dynamic web platform that could support its unique business processes and provide superior service to its members. Unleashed Technologies worked with USNI to create a website design that would engage its readers and support its various requirements. This site design was required to deliver:

  • An engaging, mobile-friendly design to give its tech savvy users a variety of ways to explore the USNI’s content
  • Granular control over website content, including article placement, photo galleries, and content correlation across departments
  • Superior search capabilities to deliver targeted content to its members
  • A flexible advertising solution with the ability to serve third-party ads
  • Site optimization for high performance availability to maintain great load speeds with 1,200 – 1,500 concurrent users
  • Event registration functionality that was custom to the unique requirements of USNI and its members
  • Integration into membership databases and USNI’s ERP system
  • An eCommerce solution to support member registration and the online sale of photographic prints
  • Integration of the Disqus commenting platform

 

Outcome

The United States Naval Institute has a sustainable web presence that’s focused on user experience, makes its valuable resources easy to find and access, reduces manual efforts and improves optimization.

Successes include:

  • Eased content management with cross correlation of content
  • Increased web engagement through an intuitive, mobile design, social enablement and information architecture
  • Log-in capabilities for members to empower them to self-administer their own member profile, keeping their information updated at all times
  • Integrated systems to eliminate manual updates of member information, saving an estimated $50,000 and resulting in a 400% increase in the number of updates made each year
  • Improved revenue opportunity with a robust advertising platform
  • A custom event management platform fully integrated with Drupal and UberCart for a seamless user experience with granular administrative control for USNI
  • Sustained sub-two second load times even when under the pressure resulting from a Drudge Report hit with 2,200 – 2,500 concurrent visitors over several hours – outperforming others in the industry.

The return on investment (ROI) for the United States Naval Institute has been not only financial, but also in process automation, industry leadership, and a strong relationship with a company that’s invested themselves in making sure whatever decisions are made regarding the USNI web presence are the right ones.

Type of Nomination 
Website