Previously in this series, Drew Robertson, Acquia’s Creative Director, explained how Acquia picked an agency for its website redesign. Catch up and read Drew’s blog here.
A building across the street from Acquia is being rebuilt from the inside, preserving its brick facade, stonework, arches and decorative motifs while the new offices climb higher through the shell to match the burgeoning Boston skyline.
I’d like to think we can draw some inspiration from the sight of powerful cranes recreating an antiquated relic as we redesign and rebuild Acquia’s flagship website.
Websites have a short shelf life. It doesn’t take long for the perception to be “Our site looks like it’s 1998 or something.” Bells, whistles, shiny objects, trendy colors, graphics, etc. don’t age well. The same goes for inherited flaws, a reminder of a pervading patchwork past.
It’s time to unearth the stone and brick, and use Acquia’s newest products and services to modernize with sleek steel and glass.
Nobody writes folk songs about auditing
The effort included compiling lists of content and modules, purging superfluous content types and fields, reviewing features, tracking third-party tools, and cleaning up as many cobwebs as possible.
I, alone, rifled through 412 nodes dedicated to employee profiles. The process involved reconciling a list exported from Drupal with a list of current employees. Based on whether the person was still an employee, a member of Acquia leadership, and if he or she writes blogs for our sites, I decided which pages we’d keep, and which pages we’d kill.
I then went back through the list and deleted or unpublished 305 nodes, one by one.
That’s just one example of the tedium. In all, we reviewed more than 4,000 nodes, about 40 content types (deleted 15 or so) and every variation.
We really don’t want to bring technical debt with us to the new site.
The same basic tasks were performed for modules.
“We needed to see which modules we needed to do things on the website, and if there was a D8 version of that module,” said David Myburgh, Acquia.com’s primary back-end developer. “If not, what alternatives exist? If there are no alternatives, we need to figure out what to do in D8.”
Myburgh made a list of all enabled modules, and checked to see which ones could be removed, all while making a list of what we would need for the new site.
“I was really assuming we’d just migrate what we had,” he said. “However, it looks like we’ll be re-architecting completely. So much of the module stuff wasn’t really necessary. But it was useful to remove some cruft. So it was 50 percent useful, I would say.”
SEO is so, so important
Another painstaking task was assessing the search engine optimization of Acquia content.
The trick is to develop a new strategy and fix what’s broken, all while creating a plan to involve SEO in the process of creating content right from the start.
To get there, we need to let go of things we did for SEO in the past, some of which is just baggage now after Google has updated its algorithm, said Prasanna Kulkarni, web metrics analyst and user experience manager for Acquia.
“We needed to get stakeholders on the same page for what’s important,” Kulkarni said. “And in some cases, breaking misconceptions/myths about SEO or educating.”
Assessing our strengths and weaknesses isn’t enough. Defining a new system of measurement and consistently taking action is a must. Our internal teams need to use data to inform their decisions.
Now we can move toward the next task – how will we make our content tell our story and our customers’ stories in an effective and compelling fashion?
The big question is how do we go from a startup site to a showcase? One word: discipline.