Performance Learning Systems, Inc.®

Ease of use, granular permissions ease departmental site management

Solution Overview/Summary

Business Challenge

Implement a content management solution that allows users in different departments to take responsibility for sections of the Performance Learning Systems (PLS) Web sites, while maintaining consistent document structure and formatting.


A Bricolage-powered content management implementation by Kineticode, backed by a comprehensive needs analysis and specification of custom document models, and delivered with a solid set of Mason formatting templates.


Education Services

Manual Site Management Proved Inadequate

Performance Learning Systems ( has been a provider of quality products and services to educators—including graduate courses, professional development, and on-line courses—for over 30 years. Although PLS has long had a Web presence, the company recently realized that its ad hoc approach to site management no longer provided a user experience equal to the quality of its educational offerings.

PLS had fallen into a slow, monolithic Web production model, said Nate Perry-Thistle, director of technology at Performance Learning Systems. A single employee was well versed in WYSIWYG editors and was the single aggregation point for all content changes on a small number of sites, some static, some dynamic.

Although this approach had worked in the past, PLS recognized that the user experience suffered due to structure and navigation inconsistencies from page to page and site to site. As a result, we could not quickly respond to requests for content changes from our internal customers, said Perry-Thistle. The solution, he realized, was to implement a flexible, robust content management system.

Selecting a Content Management System

The requirements for the new system were designed to address the shortcomings of the manual development and updating model of site management. Chief among them was the ability to open up content creation and editing to other departments in the company, primarily Sales and Marketing. The need to provide a simple interface to non-technical users required that the system provide flexible document modeling, to keep the quality of site content high, and a dynamic templating architecture, to ensure the consistent generation of a world-class user experience. And as users of Mason, the Perl-based templating architecture, PLS wanted to continue to leverage its experience with that technology.

PLS discovered Bricolage via announcements to the Mason users mail list. Perry-Thistle relates the significance of the discovery: After investing a modest amount of time reading the documentation it became clear that, feature by feature and release by release, Bricolage was maturing quickly into a complete, multi-site capable CMS without peer.

Bricolage met all of PLS’s requirements. As an enterprise-class content management system built on Apache/mod_perl and Mason and backed by the power and performance of the PostgreSQL open-source RDMBS, Bricolage meshed perfectly with the demands of the PLS environment. Bricolage templates can be written in Mason, and offer the full flexibility of the Perl programming language. This architecture ensures the consistency of the navigation and display across the PLS sites.

Furthermore, Bricolage provides granular control over groups within a number of sites. These controls allow PLS to encourage user participation in the creation and maintenance of site content, as well as ownership of that content. At the same time, the document models ensure tight control over the way documents are structured and ultimately formatted.

The community support for Bricolage clinched the decision for PLS. Says Perry-Thistle, Lurking on the Bricolage users mail list revealed an active, compassionate, and successful user base led with great support by lead developer David Wheeler.

Kineticode Provides the Implementation

Recognizing that the key to a successful CMS implementation is solid planning, PLS turned to Kineticode for help. Kineticode conducted a needs analysis and generated a detailed technical specification for the project, paying particular attention to workflow use cases, permissions management, and document modeling. Kineticode then implemented the initial set of Mason templates to output documents based on those models to XHTML. These services enabled PLS to hit the ground running with its Bricolage implementation.

In researching Bricolage it became quite clear that the product could meet almost any need, said Perry-Thistle. But how well it would meet that need depended upon creating the right document models, workflow processes, and permissions. Kineticode came to our headquarters and worked with our team to define the structure, workflow, and permissions for our first site. This was invaluable and the real root of our success.

The combined efforts of Kineticode and PLS culminated in the launch of the new Bricolage-powered PLS Web site in May, 2004. Another smooth site launch once again validates the capabilities of Bricolage, said David Wheeler, Kineticode president. The collaboration between Kineticode and PLS ensured that success. We enjoyed working together on this project, and look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

Kineticode was our best vendor in this entire redesign effort, Perry-Thistle added. They hit their deadlines and have always been very responsive to our needs. The result is a solid implementation that delivers on our original requirements. We couldn’t be happier with the result.