How we killed the website replatform

How we killed the website replatform

Image of burnt out match on black background
Kyle Letterle
Thought byKyle Letterle
Agile Team Program Manager
November 12, 2020

After an especially turbulent year like 2020, it’s likely your organization is looking at its website and wishing it looked different, allowed more features, or was able to reach customers with a fresh message. A replatform has been the traditional remedy prescribed in this circumstance; a complete overhaul of your site. 

Think of it like having a garden that’s overrun with weeds. If you really want a whole new garden, then by all means rip everything out and start again. But if all you really want is to remove the weeds and swap out your corn for sunflowers, you just need to put in a smaller amount of effort over time. It’s the same with your website, and if you don’t want an entirely new website, a continuous delivery agreement could be the right route.

A few years ago, Delphix was exhausted from all the time, planning, and resources that were necessary to complete their replatform. With help from FFW, they completed their replatform and transitioned to a more ongoing process of refining, enhancing, and supplementing the visuals and features of their website. The result is that they’ve eliminated the need for a complete remodel every couple years. This hasn’t stopped them from updating site styles multiple times in the last several years and keeping decisions totally on their terms. Thus begins the story of why we decided to kill the replatform. 

This article is based on FFW's webinar with Pantheon. Click below to check out the full video.

Thumbnail image linking to webinar

 

Why would anyone want to kill the replatform?

Okay so we didn’t entirely kill the need for a replatform. It can actually be the best solution in certain cases. The main downsides have to do with the immense planning, resources, time, and money that have to be committed to this kind of undertaking. 

When embarking on a platform effort, these are typically some of the planning hurdles you can plan to jump through:

  • Assessing the needs and identifying problems
  • Figuring out who wants what from various stakeholder groups
  • Having a lot of internal discussions and planning meetings
  • Reaching out to agencies and potential partners
  • Figuring out reasonable timelines and costs
  • Determining milestones to expect and when stakeholders can review progress
  • Diverting time and energy from your own staff members for several months to engage with a partner, review progress, confirm decisions, and participate in release efforts

The surprising thing is, it’s not uncommon for this to be a regular three, four, or five year cycle for organizations who either haven’t done much with their site or have changed their direction over time.

Centralizing content and five different language sites into one new platform 

Delphix originally had a false-start from a different agency that was trying to do the development work for them on a new platform, but it became clear that agency couldn’t handle the platform and redesign. When Delphix sought the help of FFW, it was a race to the finish line to get the project completed in time. With a razor thin deadline of only four weeks left, FFW completed a full replatform from an old Drupal 7 site to a fresh, new Drupal 8 site, created a single point of truth for their organization’s content, and got five different languages from different sites all into one central hub.

Continuous delivery: A slow and steady, yet highly agile alternative

After the initial chaos and tight turnaround of that replatform, Delphix decided that a massive rebuild effort wasn’t a project they wanted to keep repeating. But as time progressed, they began accumulating a wishlist of items related to how users were interacting with the site. Maintaining the latest security updates was also of great importance. 

A continuous delivery agreement was put in place to help them tackle that wishlist on a set monthly budget, which is still ongoing today. Together, we tackle the most important and valuable requests, maintenance, and occasional bugs while scheduling the lower priority work to a road map for future iterations. Their website continuously evolves and they’re able to easily pivot the direction of their site as they pivot messaging and product offering.

Delphix is a great example of how continuous delivery can be an worthy alternative to a replatform:

  • Flexibility and agility: When website improvements are broken up into bite-sized pieces and worked on gradually, it’s much easier to pivot resource investments to other areas than with a major overhaul project. There were actually times with Delphix where they completely shifted their budget to creative, strategic thinking, design, or research. And we had completely paused development while that was happening.
  • Less upfront resource investment and commitment: There’s an immense amount of initial planning and costs required for a full replatform or redesign. Tackling necessary updates as they come, rather than burning everything down and starting over, makes for a less intensive investment.
  • Scalability: Continuous delivery serves as a way to grow your site at the rate that works best for your organization, without lulls in improvements. Delphix’s component library available to content managers has over doubled since implementing this approach.
  • Seamless upgrades: Delphix will be able to upgrade to Drupal 9 with minimal effort and few pain points since they’ve done such a good job of prioritizing security updates and module updates. They won't have to do a massive migration. They won't have to do a massive new CMS build. We did indeed kill the replatform for them.
  • Continuous growth: Small, frequent improvements can lead to colossal changes over time. Delphix was even able to redo their homepage four times in only two years.

For those reasons and more, continuous delivery is a relatively low-risk, yet promising alternative to the typical replatform. 

Images of Delphix's four different homepages
Delphix was able to redo their homepage 4 times in only 2 years

Leveraging continuous delivery to give users what they really want

The regular cadence of continuous delivery creates an optimal environment for user testing and research. It was very important to Delphix that they truly understand their users, how those users were actually reacting to what we were putting on the screen in front of them, and building and adapting the website experience to meet their reactions. We were able to break things down independently to see what was having a positive impact, and what was being ignored.

Any key change or additions were monitored and assessed via Google Analytics and heat maps to review how users were actually interacting with any new page elements. If the results weren’t as anticipated, we could easily adjust focus to areas that might provide a better impact. After doing all these things, it was quickly evident to their CMO that we were finally building a site to give users what they were really coming to the site for.

By following this process, Delphix gradually revamped their site at least two or three times. A small phase here and there has led to a completely different feel over the course of more than two years. The homepage alone has gotten a facelift almost half a dozen times. Delphix can update their user navigation whenever they need to, and are able to easily point their users to different top level pages and try to get them where they need to go faster. They have been doing that over the course of the last three years and the navigation has changed quite significantly as a result.

Content managers have been enabled with greater and greater control along the way. The whole idea of continuous site development is to put the power in the hands of your marketing team and content managers so they don’t need to ask for development just to write up a new landing page. By taking this approach, the Delphix site has emerged with a flexible component-ized platform, which means that their content managers are able to create the pages they need on an ongoing basis.

Over time, some elements of your site are absolutely going to need to be pruned, fertilized, or replanted, but you don’t need to burn the whole thing down and start over again. Just focus on the parts of the site that do need to be updated, start with the lowest hanging fruit, and make incremental improvements one by one. You’ll be amazed at the result when you look back in a year.

Learn more about whether continuous delivery is right for your organization

Continuous delivery is a flexible solution that works well for many organizations, but we at FFW are here to help you find the best fit to grow your site. Contact us to discuss options.

Here’s another article to learn more about CDA’s. 

Check out the full webinar here.

Topics:
CDA
Continuous Development

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