Giddy About Content Management

By Stuart Walsh / Dec 06, 2016



If there’s one thing Oliver Russell takes seriously, it’s content. Take a look at our website and you’ll start to get an idea of the time we dedicate to insights, changemakers and case studies. In fact it’s somewhat of a company policy—everyone writes.

Our content mantra is so engrained in Oliver Russell culture that when we decided to redesign our site, the focus was less about a visual redesign and more about redesigning how we publish articles and interact with the site.

Oliver Russell’s previous website used a proprietary CMS that served us well, but lacked the functionality for content creators to efficiently design blog and case study pages. Instead, this task was left to the art directors. This means that once an article was ready to publish, the writer gave it to a designer to enter content and lay the page out.

What’s more, we didn’t have access to the raw site files. If we wanted to add a new CTA or create a new font style, we had to ask the software company to add the HTML, CSS, etc. Over time, this became costly and time consuming.

After discussing our somewhat ineffective publishing process, we identified two vital requirements (as well as a few ancillary ones):

  1. Anyone writing an article or case study should be able to easily enter content in any order, reorder the content if needed, and see it in real-time before publishing. In essence, content creators could become page designers.
  2. We needed access to site files. (This is a no-brainer for most internal projects, so we don’t need to go into detail about that.)
  3. We wanted to minimize the need for third-party plugins.
  4. We needed the ability to easily integrate a front-end framework.
  5. We wanted flexible and robust templating.

Page building on the fly.

Insights that incite.

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  • Should be Empty:
  • Although we thought the first requirement listed above would be challenging, it turned out to be incredibly easy. Rather than view the website from a page and template perspective, we broke it down into components, i.e., full screen video, four-column images, single column text, etc. We then combined these individual components to form pages and templates. This allowed us to reuse components over and over, which helped minimize development and design time. All we had to do was ensure the components played nicely with each other and voilà! A blueprint for page building was born.

    One Column Addimage

    With the front-end built, we moved on to the CMS. Most content management systems (WordPress, Expression Engine for example) closely match content fields with sections on the page, i.e., Field A populates Slot B, and so on. Which makes perfect sense—they’re content management systems, not page management systems. But we needed something more. We required a CMS that could manage content and page layouts. And we knew Craft could make it happen.

    With Craft’s Matrix and Live Preview, our writers could see a real-time preview of their page while typing or inserting images.

    By using Craft with a components-based approach, we were able to remove the designers from the publishing process and reduce the time it takes to go from draft to published content.

    One Column Backend

    The cherry on top.

    Craft also, by the way, helped us meet all of the secondary requirements on our list. Since Craft comes with so much flexibility and a wide variety of field types right out of the box, we had minimal need for extra plugins. Typically, the only plugin we use is for SEO.

    Another bonus is what Craft assumes about front-end structure, which is nothing—nada, zilch, oogatz. You could create your entire website using tables and tables within tables, and Craft wouldn’t judge you. We might, but Craft wouldn’t. This approach also means it’s incredibly easy to add a front-end framework like Bootstrap or Foundation to a site.

    One Column Table

    Inserting data and entries into the front-end of our site is handled through the very capable Twig engine, which makes tasks like applying text filters, performing math functions and merging arrays incredibly easy. 


    Coming away from this project, it’s clear that our writers love this publishing platform, designers like the creative control, and we are all very happy with the way the whole project came together.

    Craft FTW!

    One Column Craft2

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    Stuart Walsh

    Stuart Walsh

    Stuart has been developing websites, interactive content and video games on behalf of clients and agencies for the better part of a decade. A graduate of both Boise State and Idaho State, Stuart ensures our client projects reflect the latest thinking on technology and strategy. His portfolio includes award-winning websites for clients such as the J.R. Simplot Company, Aire rafts, and Blue Cross of Idaho, as well as games for iOS, Android and Amazon devices.

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