Online Communications

12 December 2023 Read time 10 min.
Online Communications team members (from left) Lucre van Breda, Nico Badenhuizen, Gareth Dawson, Rethea Deetlefs, Timothy Benjamin and Shaqeel Less. <b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna.
Online Communications team members (from left) Lucre van Breda, Nico Badenhuizen, Gareth Dawson, Rethea Deetlefs, Timothy Benjamin and Shaqeel Less. Photo Lerato Maduna.

The Online Communications (OC) unit is responsible for the staff, students, main and news websites. This covers information architecture, edits and updates in support of the Head: Web Content, tracking statistics, as well as technical support and maintenance of the two web content management systems the sites are hosted on. OC supports other Communication and Marketing Department (CMD) units and UCT website owners; and provides live-streaming services for UCT events. They also perform web governance duties such as exercising oversight over UCT’s web presence and checking compliance with web policy. The Head: OC serves on the Drupal 9 Project PIC, the Web Governance Working Group, the University Computing Co-ordinating Committee, and the University ICT Committee.

Web Content Management System upgrade project

The project is replacing the current Web Content Management System (Drupal 7), which reaches the end of its life in November 2023 and has stability, performance, and security issues. Migration of all Drupal 7 websites into Drupal 9 is underway.

Site audits

Two hundred and nine sites were audited to determine if anything needed to be fixed on them to make them ready for migration. Audit reports were sent to domain administrators to inform them about the migration process and what they needed to fix. The team fixed all issues found on the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), Faculty of Science and Department of Psychology sites, assisted the Faculty of Health Sciences with their faculty site issues, and fixed many of the Department of Student Affairs site’s issues. The owners of ten sites agreed to have them decommissioned. Since the Department of Mathematics site has a manual menu not compatible with best practice, a new navigation was created in a spreadsheet, for the vendor to use when migrating it.


  • The ICTS training team’s Drupal 9 documentation was reviewed and feedback was provided.
  • As part of the audit process, a list of active content managers needing Drupal 9 training is being populated.
  • In 2022 the Head: OC organised training by ICTS for 155 content managers.
  • Editing guidelines were written and shared with trained content managers.

Secure web forms

Multiple web forms that had been moved to the main site on Drupal 7 to take advantage of its security certificate were recreated on Drupal 9.


The migration phase got underway and nine sprints were completed or were underway by the end of the year. Sprint 1 included the main, staff and student sites, and Sprint 2 the faculty sites.

Prior to the migration of each site, vendor-provided control sheets containing all URLs were reviewed by OC to provide the vendor with more information, spot, and decide which pages with repetitive content they did not need to quality check. This was followed by attending to queries the vendor raised about specific pages and content on each site. Each site was rescored. All their stats were rechecked and translated into the estimated hours it would take to migrate them. Towards the end of 2022, OC started doing the control sheets in a format designed to speed up the process and remove duplication of effort. The sheets calculate the estimated time and cost for each site’s migration. These were discussed with the vendor to reach an agreement on the cost for each sprint.

The faculty sites were updated on Drupal 9, having become outdated during the migration process. OC worked with the web content team to update the main, staff and students' sites. The team spent extra time building the faculty home pages and worked with most of their domain administrators to complete these according to their requirements. OC also worked on non-standard pages on all the sites requiring additional formatting.

The new version of Google Analytics was implemented for all migrated sites.

Maintenance: Two Drupal 9 core updates were tested and made live. Custom error pages were created and sent to ICTS to implement.

UCT main, staff and students sites

The UCT main site’s revised navigation was edited and in some instances, new content was implemented on the migrated site. The three sites went live on 15 August 2022. UCT risk management information was added to the main and staff sites.

Main site Drupal 7 & 9 site statistics comparison: 1 September31 December 2022 vs 1 September31 December 2021

This is a comparison of Drupal 9 and 7 statistics for the main site for September to December. (September 2022 was the first full month for which statistics were available on Drupal 9).

CMD Annual Report 2022 - Online Comms Infographic
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The lower average session duration and higher bounce rate on Drupal 9 may be due to that version of the site including more links to other UCT sites, especially student-related content.

Drupal 7 site statistics comparison: 1 January16 August 2022 vs 1 January16 August 2021/20/19

Each year’s totals are compared to the year before. Note that the date range stops on 16 August because that is when the Drupal 7 sites went offline.

CMD Annual Report 2022 - Online Comms Infographic
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CMD Annual Report 2022 - Online Comms Infographic
Download PDF
CMD Annual Report 2022 - Online Comms Infographic
Download PDF


  • An upgraded news article embed option (allowing the display of articles from the news site) was developed to accommodate Drupal 9.

Drupal 7


  • Three core system updates were tested and approved to go live.
  • PAIA and POPIA links were added to the global footer template to show on all sites.

Bugs and issues

  • A web form security bug was investigated and documented. A fix was implemented.
  • The team worked with ICTS to investigate the system being overloaded by bots and scrapers, affecting performance. Multiple bots were blocked from accessing the sites. Performance also improved when the main, staff, students and faculty sites left the system.

Other key unit activities

Events recorded and/or live-streamed: OC work on online events included dry runs, set-up and configuration, speaker/VIP training and technical support, slideshow production, video editing and event production.

We produced and live streamed 38 events

Staff Assembly: Vaccine mandate engagement

Annual Prof Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture

Parent Orientation: Plenary

Parent Orientation: Commerce Dean’s session

Parent Orientation: EBE Dean’s session

Parent Orientation: Law Dean’s session

Parent Orientation: Health Sciences Dean’s session

Parent Orientation: Humanities Dean’s session

Parent Orientation: Sciences Dean’s session

Staff Assembly: Vaccine mandate engagement x 2

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Richard Van Zyl-Smit

Graduation: Commerce (A-L)

Graduation: Commerce (M-Z)

Graduation: Law

Graduation: Sciences

VC Open Lecture: Fred Swaniker

VC Inaugural Lecture: Professor Abimbola Olukemi Windapo

Afrika Month Symposium: morning session x2

Launch: 2021/2022 South African Child Gauge: Child & Adolescent Mental Health

Launch: UCT Digital Bootcamp

VC Open Lecture: Vikas Pota

Student Assembly: COVID-19 - "Adjusting to our new environment”

UCT GESDA: Use the science of the future to shape the present

Women's Day event at Graça Machel Hall (closed, in-person event)

TB Davie Lecture: Professor Fran Baum

VC Inaugural Lecture: Professor Linda Ronnie

UCT Annual Awards

Graduation: Commerce

Graduation: Humanities

Graduation: EBE and Sciences

Graduation: Health Sciences and Law


The senior PHP developer trained the ICTS resources team on live streaming as part of a project to enable them to take over live streaming services for non-CMD events.

CMD digital assets management system (DAMS) server software was upgraded. New colleagues were trained on the system.

Bulk mail, SMS and RSVP forms

  • 69 Everlytic bulk mails were sent, including two VC Desks, one Chair of Council’s Desk, one Deputy Chair of Council’s Desk
  • 20 SMSs were sent
  • 28 event web forms were created
  • A Digital Bootcamp email signature was created, as was an editable version of the CMD email

PASS and academic department web support

The unit provided assistance on coding, formatting, content editing, bug/error investigation and Drupal support to 127 Drupal 7 and nine website owners – most were assisted multiple times. Three redone and three new sites were reviewed and approved to go live on Drupal 7. The new sites had been granted an extension during the moratorium. Twenty-six new sites were created on Drupal 9 and handed over to their content managers.


The team assisted the POPIA team by providing input and feedback on web privacy notices. Links to the final online versions (hosted on the main UCT site) were added to the footer templates of both Drupal 7 and 9, to display on all sites.

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