From nine month lag to same day release: fast ePublishing using Drupal and InDesign

Client: 
UNC School of Government
Industry: 
Education
Relationship: 
2012 - Present
Launched: 
July 2012

The UNC School of Government needed a system that would drastically reduce the amount of time between the print and electronic releases of its publication North Carolina Crimes: A Guidebook on the Elements of Crime. Using the Drupal platform, we created a custom system that allows for same-day release of the electronic and print editions of NC Crimes, an 800-page book with thousands of cross-references.

When we published the 2012 supplement edition in February 2013, the updated online edition was launched live on 2/6/13, and the print edition arrived from the printer on 2/14/13. We are very pleased with the professional quality of DesignHammer’s work and their top-notch customer service.
Katrina Hunt, UNC School of Government

North Carolina Crimes: A Guidebook on the Elements of Crime by Jessica Smith Screenshot

Challenges

The UNC School of Government sought to drastically reduce the turnaround time between the release of its print publication, NC Crimes, and the electronic version of the text. The book is used as a reference tool by professionals in every area of criminal law (judges, lawyers, police) and incorporates statutory changes made by the N.C. General Assembly and case law to provide an up-to-date reference.

Prior to this project, the School hired vendors to create a stand alone CD-ROM-based application to serve as the electronic version of the text. A long turnaround time caused the electronic edition to lag 9–12 months behind the release of the print edition.

Additionally, the School publishes annual supplements to the main publication, which is printed in full every 4–5 years. The long turnaround time of nearly a year for the electronic edition meant the supplemental material was outdated by the time it was published.

The challenges with converting the print content to an electronic format included:

  • 800+ pages of content
  • Thousands of cross references to convert to hyperlinks
  • Highly-specific formatting requirements
  • Need for side-by-side page layout to allow for comparison of original and updated supplemental content

Solutions

Develop InDesign to Drupal workflow

NC Crimes content exist as Adobe InDesign files geared toward print publication. These raw files could not be used for the website, and needed to receive treatment to be properly formatted for the web.

Converting these files required creation of an InDesign to XML workflow, as well as an XML to Drupal workflow — with XML used as an intermediate format to convert the data from InDesign to a form usable by Drupal.

Establishing the workflow required processing the existing InDesign files (more than 800 pages), which were imported and tagged by the publications team. The tagging allowed for the electronic edition to include cross-references within the work.

The tagged pages were then then exported as XML files, which were then converted to Drupal nodes using a custom migration using the Drupal Migrate module.

The new workflow provides the School’s publication team with a sustainable model for their yearly content supplement cycle, as well as the next complete version of NC Crimes.

Capture formatting specifics

The unique formatting elements of the print version of NC Crimes required a robust tagging process and extensive styling to preserve the layout specifics of the book’s content, such as the custom handling of lists and display of statute references.

example unc gov formatting

Working with the School, we defined a detailed HTML specification to provide very fine-grained control of how the book’s content displayed in the electronic edition. This step in the content processing cycle allows the web content to closely match the physical book’s formatting, creating familiarity for users of the print work.

Outcomes & Results

The new InDesign to Drupal workflow allows for same-day release of the electronic and print editions of NC Crimes.

Even further, the 2013 electronic version of the NC Crimes supplement was available one week prior to the release of the print edition.

Additional outcomes:

  • Improved user experience: Created an electronic tool that enables fast and easy-to-use search with cross references. The functionality strongly supports the book’s content and provides fast load times, creating an overall improvement in the user experience.
  • Ability to preview content: When the newest version of XML files are uploaded, the School now has the ability to see the content populated in Drupal in the correct format before publishing, ensuring that updates are ready for display on the web.
  • Mobile-optimized: Custom development provides an optimal mobile experience for users on tablets and smartphones.

From the Project Leader

This was a great project that challenged our team to create not only a website, but also a workflow for the School of Government. Drupal was an excellent choice because it allowed us to showcase the Crimes content in a way that the print edition couldn’t. All of the related content is accessible with a single click and major content updates are as easy as uploading a file.
Jay Roberts, Lead Developer