SIL International Enhances Online Presence with Drupal Website Redesign


Drupal Simplifies the Management of Tens of Thousands of Webpages

The non-profit SIL International researches and documents the world’s languages. It serves minority communities as they strive to ensure that their own languages continue to develop to meet their needs. SIL has conducted linguistic analysis of more than 2,590 languages spoken by 1.7 billion people in nearly 100 countries. Experts in how people communicate with each other, SIL approached LevelTen when it realized that its outdated website was hindering its own ability to fully communicate via the Internet.

SIL’s legacy website comprised tens of thousands of webpages hosted across multiple domains with different content managers, which led to branding and navigational problems. SIL had tried without success to consolidate its content onto one platform before approaching LevelTen for a solution.

“On our previous website, we had no way of integrating with our proprietary database,” said Kirby O’Brien, SIL media specialist and project manager. “Based on LevelTen’s recommendations, we chose Acquia for its cloud performance environment and efficient production.”

The Solution

LevelTen spent several months reviewing data, interviewing departments at SIL, and learning SIL’s organizational goals.

SIL’s old website ran on several subdomains administered by different departments within the organization. Some content managers used ASP, some used PHP, while others used HTML. Navigating from one domain to another was akin to visiting two different websites. Navigational structures changed between domains, page layouts were inconsistent, and dead-end pages left users stranded, unable to return to the main site.

LevelTen and SIL collaborated to create a look and feel consistent with SIL’s current brand. The new website architecture gave SIL a better way to communicate its mission, share research results, and manage the review and organization of copy for a consistent, on-brand voice.

Using Drupal 7, LevelTen consolidated and streamlined the administrative interface and provided documentation to help SIL easily train new administrators. A new front end generates navigation, layout, and styles automatically for each new page. “Consolidating the administrative interface and providing less-technical users with the ability to manage content easily, rather than needing to know HTML to generate pages, was a business decision that has been very impactful,” O’Brien said.

SIL considered building a native app for its mobile solution, but the cost was beyond its reach. In the end, Drupal 7’s responsive design provided a mobile solution that obviated the need for an app. It enabled LevelTen to build a well-organized site that gives users a clean, consistent, and intuitive experience for across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.

The legacy site’s administrators struggled to find information because more than 15,000 pages were hand-coded HTML. LevelTen added SIL’s archive to Drupal and implemented Solr search to help users find what they need.

“Adding Solr search, a faceted search system, allowed us to significantly improve the way users can search and filter publications. Instead of browsing all publications, now users can browse/search by author, domain, country, series, subject, and language, and use over a dozen facets to filter content based on their needs,” O’Brien said.

The Results

SIL’s Acquia-hosted site has improved the experience for both visitors and administrators. The organization lets users intuitively navigate to the information they need, while providing the option for faceted search from the top of the homepage. And the site’s responsive design guarantees a clean user experience for smartphones and tablets. User acquisition, pageviews, and time spent on site have all increased.

Morale at SIL has also improved, with administrators no longer consumed by content- management problems, but managing a solution that does the work for them. “The quality and features of the website turned out by LevelTen are better than anyone at SIL could have imagined before the redesign,” O’Brien said. “Our teams are more independent and can manage content easier, faster, and with less overhead.”

And that lets the people at SIL get back to doing what they do best—sustainable language development and research.

Based on LevelTen’s recommendations, we chose Acquia for its cloud performance environment and efficient production.
Kirby O’Brien
SIL Media Specialist and Project Manager

Company Information

SIL International
Dedicated to sustainable language development
5,500+ active staff
Drupal user since 2012
Acquia client since 2012
The Numbers
  • 2,590 languages documented
  • 70+ modules used
  • 15,000+ hand-coded HTML pages integrated