As Washingtonian’s long-time development and support agency, Washingtonian approached us looking to migrate their publication to WordPress, implement a phased responsive redesign, and update their advertising strategy to meet the challenges of a mobile audience.
Their legacy CMS, Movable Type, had become an obstacle in Washingtonian’s goal to deliver the best experience to their audience regardless of device. With a responsive redesign already in the works, both their CMS, current Google DFP implementation and overall advertising sales strategy would need to be overhauled.
We first met with stakeholders at Washingtonian’s office for a two-day discovery session to better understand their business goals related to the migration to WordPress, a responsive redesign and their current display advertising strategy on Washingtonian.com.
The result was a full catalog of user stories detailing the specific requirements for the project by difficulty and organized by priority. Several key factors were pulled from the two-day Agile discovery session. Washingtonian would provide the new responsive layout and task 601am with simultaneously migrating their existing content while implementing their new designs within WordPress.
A new redesign would also allow Washingtonian to capitalize on new Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) standards for mobile ads and viewability standards. Their old ad strategy had made it difficult to offer more modern ad sizes for a growing list of advertisers resulting in decreased revenue.
Having used an Agile discovery method, both teams agreed that the Agile project management approach would ensure the best final project given the project's budget. We held daily stand-ups, providing stakeholders at Washingtonian a clear window into the progress and roadblocks of the project, every step of the way.
Every two weeks (named a Sprint), we planned for the upcoming sprint, while discussing what went well, and not-so-well with the previous one. This allowed the project to adapt to unforeseen obstacles in the development cycle in a more fluid way than more traditional Waterfall processes allow.
601am began to catalog the various content types that would need to be migrated from Movable Type to WordPress. Overall, a combination of 10 content types and 207 individual content fields were migrated.
Within these content types, several annual sections were on the horizon and would go to print during the transition, including Washingtonian’s Top Doctors annual special section.
601am and Washingtonian decided that Top Doctors would be the perfect chance to soft-launch the planned responsive redesign and migration to WordPress. This process was extremely delicate as it required Washingtonian and 601am to juggle serving the live Washingtonian.com site through both Movable Type and Wordpress simultaneously.
The migration also presented an opportunity to simplify and consolidate Washingtonian’s use of finders into a consistent format across the site. Previously, Washingtonian had built use-specific finders over the years which had created a non-standard system. With the migration to WordPress, we standardized all finders into the same format making it far easier for Washingtonian to manage future updates and maintain an updated database of resources on an ongoing basis.
As with any large publication, a redesign alongside a CMS migration had required a large coordination between 601AM’s development team and the multiple development stakeholders at Washingtonian. This had become especially tricky during the WordPress theming stage of the project.
To address this, 601AM leaned heavily on Agile processes and ensuring both development teams had direct and instant access (via IM) to one another to avoid unnecessary bottlenecks and communication obstacles. Each developer was assigned specific user-stories each sprint related to theming and using new merge/push code processes that were defined as a reaction to unintended bottlenecks had began to form between both teams. The new process allowed for multi-team updates to be made and committed to Git alongside set schedules of when front-end QA would be performed.
This flexibility built into the Agile process alongside tight-coordination between both teams allowed the project to avoid further setbacks due code conflicts during theming. More importantly, it had showcased the advantages of the Agile process and the value of building cross-team collaboration into the development process.
601am met with stakeholders on Washingtonian’s Ad team to investigate how approach a new Ad Strategy for Washingtonian.com. Items included how to best tag the new design, create positions to that would account for a responsive design and allow serving of legacy and new ad types, and how to streamline the overall ad sales strategy.
601am first worked with Washingtonian to create a new ad position template that would account for both legacy and new ad types. The new template provided both Washingtonian and 601am a guide to begin tagging and testing the new approach.
New tags were created, leaning on standard responsive tags within DFP that would allow both HTML5 responsive ads, standard ads and rich-media ads to serve in the same position. As well, non-responsive ads would be swapped out at both Tablet and Mobile thresholds, allowing Washingtonian to serve the most relevant ads to their audience.
This new approach created a higher workload for Washingtonian’s AdOps department which created an opportunity to investigate existing WordPress DFP plugins that would simplify the process of serving the correct DFP tags and ads at the right time. 601am and Washingtonian began an exhausting QA of the new process to ensure the new strategy worked as intended..
The Washingtonian project showcased just how important agility is during a development process at 601am.
With any CMS migration, the chances that the unexpected arise is high, and in traditional Waterfall approaches, it had often put the onus on discovering the unexpected at the start of a project. Add on top of a CMS migration, a complete website and advertising redesign and the chances for the unexpected becomes a guarantee. If left undiscovered, the unexpected typically results adjusted timelines or scopes and in the end, adds undue strain to clients and ourselves.
The Washingtonian launched in January of 2016, ushering in a newly optimized design, ad strategy and modern CMS. It had also showcased the power of our Agile process in dealing with the unexpected and when managing multiple teams without requiring momentum to stop.