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On the Frontline of Website Redesign with Acquia Professional Services

Previously in this series, Drew Robertson, Acquia’s Creative Director, explained how to channel project feedback into concepts. Catch up and read Drew's blog, here.

The Acquia.com redesign project provides a unique opportunity for Acquia to walk in our customer's shoes, and for Professional Services to showcase what we do for customers every day. As Lynne Capozzi (Acquia’s CMO) previously noted, this project will allow Acquia’s marketing team to “undergo a full customer journey where we’ll get to experience what it’s like to work with Acquia and Drupal at every touch point.” This means working directly with Acquia’s Professional Services team, which will own the project throughout every stage of development, build and launch.

The Professional Services team is a key partner in the redesign project, so I wanted to share some background on the team, our approach and how we are helping to build a new Acquia.com.

Who is Acquia Professional Services?

Acquia is building technology that supports business transformation across the board, and many of our customers also rely on Acquia for more than our product offerings. Boston.gov, Nasdaq and Wilson Sporting Goods are just a few examples of organizations who have worked with Acquia Professional Services to build ambitious digital experiences with Acquia’s products and Drupal. Professional Services provides unparalleled expertise to help customers plan, implement and accelerate business value with the Acquia platform.

Acquia’s Professional Services includes an impressive roster of Drupal talent. The team has more than 120 of the industry's top Drupalists and boasts more than 250 combined years of Drupal and web content management system experience. Many members of the PS team are also module and core contributors to Drupal with thousands of commits.

In addition to offering immense Drupal expertise, the PS team also provides implementation, workshop, and speciality services for the Acquia Platform. Our services align with customers who need someone to help them build their digital experience on Acquia products. We accelerate value and time to market by either building it for them or by providing services that help enable the customer’s internal team or preferred partner to achieve success with Acquia products.

What’s our approach?

Acquia Professional Services has one basic goal for all its customers: bring our unparalleled expertise with the Acquia platform and Drupal to fuel amazing digital experiences. We offer our customers a variety of approaches so that they can reach this goal in a manner that works best for their organization. While our methodology can be catered to fit our customers specific needs all projects have discovery, implementation, testing and launch phases:

The discovery phase focuses on developing a plan for project success. A solid framework for requirements definition, dependency planning, risk management, and Drupal project sizing is created. Success metrics are defined plus project timelines and budgets are established. During this phase we work with our customers to structure the JIRA backlog and issues that facilitate the initial development sprints. Issues will include the demonstrable acceptance criteria expected out of each piece of work.

The implementation phase prioritizes delivering a MVP (minimum viable product). The aim is to first develop the feature set that provides the highest return on investment with the least amount of risk. Solutions are developed in an Agile manner via sprints, which is optimal for a successful change management, providing great flexibility for reacting to new priorities in each sprint while staying within budget and timeline constraints. The composition of a sprint includes planning, development, validation, and demo & deploy. Each sprint is scoped to include a set of features mutually agreed to by the customer and development teams. The conclusion of each sprint is supported by demonstrations, feedback sessions, prioritization discussions, and backlog analysis. Following a sprint demonstration the customer team will perform user acceptance testing of the work completed, providing appropriate feedback and approval.

The final User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase follows the last development sprint. Delivery of the completed application and the period directly following results in high value feedback that will include adjustments and developments a customer may want to act upon immediately or plan for future development. After final UAT is complete and all critical bugs are fixed the application is ready to launch. During this phase Professional Services assists our customers in final preparations and making the site live for external audiences.

Building a New Acquia.com

This project is a first of its kind for the PS team because instead of working with external clients, we are providing project support and consultation to our colleagues. However, throughout the project we’ve maintained the tried-and-true approach that we provide to every customer. With this in mind, I wanted to share a few of the key takeaways we’ve uncovered thus far:

Don’t cut corners on discovery
Professional Services kicked off the project by leading a planning session with the Acquia marketing team. This session allowed Professional Services to provide program and technical leadership that will influence the direction of implementation. The purpose of this is to ensure a successful transition when the Acquia’s marketing team takes over the new site.

The session's goal was to narrow in on high level goals and objectives for the project. One of the primary objectives of the new site is to present a new user experience to our visitors. In addition, we wanted the content to reach beyond developers and speak to a digital marketing communications audience. It became clear in the planning session that Acquia’s marketing team should bring on an outside UX design partner to chart a new visual direction for the website. Professional Services participated in the evaluation and selection of a design partner. In partnership with Acquia’s marketing team, we landed on Huge.

Having a thorough discovery period and planning session enabled Professional Services to determine what the Acquia marketing team required to be successful. By understanding their goals and challenges, we were able to make recommendations that will minimize project risk and improve project outcomes.

Prioritize key features and functionality for MVP
In parallel to selecting a design partner, we began to lay out a timeline and schedule to deliver a MVP for the new Acquia.com. Based on discussions during the planning sessions we were able to estimate the effort required to deliver the key features and functionality desired. Additional discovery time was planned to validate requirements with new designs prior to starting development.

For the redesign of Acquia.com, the team is prioritizing the following features for MVP:

  • Upgrade to Drupal 8 with a new and modern UX
  • A revamped information architecture that better shows off Acquia and our products and services
  • Enhanced personalization of case studies with Lift so we can present the right content at the right time to potential customers
  • An updated administrative interface to make content publishing and site maintenance more efficient
  • A tool that helps customers determine the Acquia products they need that will also help generate leads for the sales team.

Bring Professional Services in early
With a timeline laid out, we assembled a PS Delivery Team composed of a Program Lead, Technical Program Lead, Program Manager, Technical Architect, Front-end Developers and Back-end Developers. The PS Delivery Team will take the UX designs created by HUGE and translate them into a fully functional Drupal application.

In the redesign of Acquia.com, Professional Services is an active participant in the creative process as we provide consultation on the complexity of implementing design directions. We attend all the regular creative meetings with the Huge and the Acquia marketing team so that we can provide feedback in real time.

Establishing clear communication between HUGE's design team and Acquia’s Professional Services from the start is important because this project calls for an aggressive timeline. This is particularly challenging due to the "just in time" delivery of the UX to the development team. In a typical implementation, the UX for the whole site would be mostly complete and approved. In this instance, we have set a tight timeline for launch that requires the PS Delivery Team to develop without completed designs. This requires careful coordination by the Program Manager and Technical Architect with Huge to ensure development work done is inline with the creative direction being approved by the Acquia marketing team.

Involving Professional Services in the early stages of the project will also allow us to build a site that best fulfills the marketing team’s use cases. For example, leveraging Acquia Lift is a big priority for the new site. By understanding the marketing team’s goals for Acquia Lift, Professional Services can recommend best practices that will fulfill the site’s personalization needs.

What’s next?

We are currently in the fourth of 5 two-week sprints. The PS Delivery team has made excellent progress translating HUGE's UX direction into a fully functioning Drupal 8 site. As with any project there have been changes in project scope and prioritization. Because we are developing using an agile process the team is able to adjust on the fly. We keep the Marketing team informed of the impact of their changes and provide different options to the approach. We're on track to deliver the MVP to the marketing team later this fall.

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