Orphans-Templates and CMS - Carnegie Mellon University


An orphan is an item on a live website that has no corresponding counterpart in the CMS. An orphan is created when an item in the CMS is deleted, moved, or has had its system name changed without being unpublished from the live website. A website that contains orphans carries a risk because orphans often contain outdated or obsolete information that is accessible by the public.

For general CMS housekeeping purposes, it is recommended that you request an orphan report regularly to identify existing orphans on the live site. Once orphans are identified, the CMS team can remove the orphans. Orphans can also be removed manually if there is an urgent need.

Remove an Orphan

Step One: Determine the URL of the Live Orphan

To remove an orphan, first determine the URL of the orphan as it resides on the live site. For example, an orphan's URL may be similar to any of the following in terms of its structure:

  • http://www.cmu.edu/your-site/orphan-page.html
  • http://www.cmu.edu/your-site/folder-name/orphan-page.html
  • http://www.cmu.edu/your-site/pdf/pdf-file.pdf

Step Two: Create a "Dummy" in the CMS that Corresponds to the Orphan's URL

Example: http://www.cmu.edu/your-site/orphan-page.html

  1. Create a new page to match the exact URL structure of the orphan; be sure to take any subfolders into consideration.
  2. Give the page an identical system name of the orphan (i.e., match the page name as it appears in the URL; do not include the .html extension).
  3. You do not need to add any content to the page, simply Submit to save. Continue with Step Three.

Note: If the orphan is a file, such as a PDF, simply upload a dummy PDF to the CMS so that is corresponds to the orphan's URL.

Step Three: Unpublish the Orphan

Once the dummy item has been created in the CMS, proceed to unpublish it. After it has completed going through the publishing queue, visit the URL of the orphan in your browser and be sure to refresh the page. You should get a 'Page Not Found' error message which confirms that the orphan has been removed. You may then proceed to delete the dummy item (and any dummy folders if applicable) in the CMS.

Note: Once an orphan is removed, its contents will no longer be available to you or the public. If the published orphan contains important information that needs to be saved, please copy the contents to your computer prior to removing it.

Preventing Orphans

Orphans can be prevented by unpublishing an item in the process of deleting it, moving it, or changing its system name. As a rule of thumb, if the URL of an item will change due to an action performed within the CMS, always unpublish the item when performing the action. The CMS has measures in place to unpublish an item when these actions are performed.

Deleting an Item

Whether you delete an item using  More > Delete  or the drop-down menu, you will be given the option to unpublish the item at the same time. Make sure this option is checked before clicking Submit.

Unpublish and Delete using the More > Delete Tab

Unpublish Content When Deleting

Unpublish and Delete an Item Using the Drop-down Menu

Unpublish Content When Deleting

Moving or Renaming an Item

If you move an item to a new location within the CMS, or change its system name, it is critical that the item is unpublished in the process. Unpublishing the item will remove it from the live website at its original folder location and URL, and will prevent multiple versions of the same item from existing on the live site. See moving an item and system names.