VU Amsterdam

Accelerating content production for the many websites of a leading university

VU Amsterdam needed to transition from a mix of legacy content management systems to a modern solution that gives their team centralized control over how their content is displayed across their various websites. They chose to manage and deliver this content across student, employee, and research-based websites. This freed up their User Experience team to optimize each visitor’s online journey and allowed their editors to produce high-quality content without worrying about how it will be used across the university’s digital channels.


  • Dependence on technical resources led to delays in getting content published
  • An inability to reuse content led to duplication of efforts and inconsistencies throughout their websites
  • Some websites didn’t meet university standards due to a lack of oversight and accessibility controls
  • The complexity of their CMS limited who could produce content without assistance


  • Intuitive authoring environment lets the content team create and publish content without help 
  • Content items are managed in a single location and reused wherever they’re needed
  • Editors focus on content while the User Experience team focuses on creating the ideal customer journey
  • Individual departments utilize templates to create basic websites that adhere to university requirements


  • Content is consistent and up to date across all locations
  • Content is now accessible to all visitors across each of the university’s websites
  • Templated websites can be created within 2-4 weeks
  • Reusable components accelerate the development of new websites

Located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, VU Amsterdam is consistently ranked as one of the top 150 universities in the world. With roughly 26,000 students and over 4,000 employees, the university owns and manages hundreds of websites that drive new student registrations, enable existing graduate and pre-graduate students, promote critical research, and serve individual teams throughout the university. These websites were built on a variety of content management systems that imposed limitations on operational efficiency, content quality, and compliance with online standards. To deliver the types of experiences their audiences expect, the university needed to replace these systems with a modern solution that can be used across their whole portfolio of web properties.

Content publishing delays and duplications

The university utilized a page-centric content management system across its primary websites. This system bound each content item to the webpage it appeared on, creating the need to duplicate content in order to display it in multiple places throughout their websites. This led to major consistency issues as authors would update content items in a single location, without realizing they needed to be updated in all other locations as well. Making matters worse, this system lacked necessary auditing capabilities that could remove content items when they were no longer accurate or relevant.

Getting content published was a challenge as well, as the process required involvement from IT resources—who often had other priorities. This frequently caused delays and introduced the risk of missing critical deadlines. To avoid these delays, some departments began creating one-off websites using free content management systems that didn’t require involvement from other teams. However, as these systems increased the efficiency of these teams, they introduced more inconsistencies as the websites often failed to meet the university’s brand and quality standards.

Managing content without developer involvement

The VU Amsterdam team chose because of its ability to manage their content independent of the presentation layer. This allows their Marketing team to focus on the creation of their content without worrying about where it will be displayed, while the User Experience team focuses on creating the best experience for all visitors. As a university, all information must be available for every visitor—including those with disabilities. This new approach allows the User Experience team to implement the necessary front-end components to make all content accessible to all visitors, without any additional steps required on the authoring side.

This solution also speeds up the content production process, as editors can create and publish content without involvement from any other teams. The authoring interface makes this as efficient as possible by presenting each user with the content fields they’re expected to populate, hiding any details that might distract them from their task. Lastly, the VU Amsterdam team created a system of templates that allows individual departments to create and manage their own websites that match the approved look and feel of the other university websites. This enables these departments to produce new, fully compliant websites in only two-to-four weeks.

Creating websites in 2-4 weeks using templates 

By implementing, the university has dramatically improved their ability to serve the different audiences that visit their websites. Their editors were able to begin creating content after only a two-hour training session on the authoring environment, and all content now complies with accessibility standards, ensuring it’s available to everyone. This content is now more accurate as well, due to the ability to reuse content and archive items once they’re no longer relevant. Individual departments are also better prepared to share their information, as templated websites can be created in 2-4 weeks with limited overhead from external teams.

Creating and editing websites without developer involvement

After launching their first campaign site on in early 2018, the team launched their main website in January 2020 with several more projects lined up to utilize in the future. Based on their current experiences, these projects should only go more smoothly as reusable components will accelerate development efforts and the content and User Experience teams will become more proficient with the solution. Ultimately, students, employees, and researchers will all benefit from improved experiences with the university’s wide range of websites. allows our editors to focus on their content while the User Experience Team focuses on creating the best flow for all website visitors. This means content gets created faster and it fits into whatever journey the team has designed for each audience.

Peter OlivierSenior Information Analyst, VU Amsterdam

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