Smile Train

Kids smiling and playing

Smile Train

Services Provided:
Drupal 8

A platform to support cleft care for children across the world

Client: Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, with a sustainable and local model of supporting surgery and other forms of essential care. Creating a platform that put their noble vision first, and one that appealed to Smile Train’s wide array of audiences, was of the greatest importance. 

Challenge: It was critical to incorporate Smile Train’s vision into any strategic decisions when developing and launching their site. The new platform needed to create a governance and architecture model to influence future sites and make content management much easier for Smile Train’s team. 

Impact: Smile Train’s platform today is faster, more unified, and mobile optimized. Donors, doctors, partners,  supporters, patients and their families can easily find resources or paths to involvement. And  Smile Train’s team can create and manage content on the site more gracefully than ever before.  

The solution

Streamlining content and reducing the number of content types created a more simplified content editing experience, while optimizing the site’s structure allowed for easily customized features. Smile Train and FFW’s discovery process was thorough and inclusive for their team. This allowed us to deeply understand the project objectives and how to keep Smile Train’s cleft-focused vision and their audiences at the forefront throughout the strategy. 

Fully aligned discovery process
Smile Train had a strong understanding of its needs, wants, and organizational challenges, which created the ideal environment for a discovery that was highly engaging and collaborative. The discovery was focused on aligning on and clarifying project objectives.

Information architecture tailored to user’s needs
Our workshops around personas and information architecture provided valuable insights around who Smile Train’s five key audiences are and how to best message to them. This information laid the groundwork for grouping content and creating a sitemap to help users more easily find and identify content that fits their needs. The platform exists to serve both users and the organization: by allowing users to access the necessary cleft information, and providing the means for Smile Train staff to update the site, while maintaining security, accessibility, and reliability of the site.

Simplified content
Content types were streamlined and reduced from 49 diverse, and sometimes overlapping types, to 7 highly-flexible types. More than a dozen components—such as galleries, cards, tabs, and listings—were implemented to allow editors to remix key pages with less friction. Content was localized to allow Smile Train users in different regions to get relevant content in their language.

Optimized structure
Using best practices, FFW developers configured the site to reduce the friction of deploying or changing features on a per-site basis. With multiple sites, using common code now allows all regional sites to share code and make distributed updates fast and reliable. 


Drupal 8 was chosen as the platform's CMS, due to its ease of use for content management and editing, and for its streamlined upgrade to Drupal 9. Smile Train’s previous site needed some cleanup and didn’t conform to all standards. In the new site, we added a Drupal code sniffer to enforce standards, so that code cannot be committed unless it passes. Multi site setup with translations was a huge, critical piece of this project because of Smile Train having various international sites. 

What I appreciated most about FFW; even from the first RFQ, was that they really explained the entire process and walked with us while going through it. Everyone internally and externally has raved about how fast the website is and how much easier it is to find what they are looking for.
Decrease in content types
Decrease in taxonomies
Decrease in contributed modules