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Pet food microsite, built in two weeks.

  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership

Since early 2014, LCM has continued a productive, ongoing partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul, and supports their web properties and the associated infrastructure. Recently, Chicken Soup asked LCM to launch two new and completely different Drupal 8 sites within a month. LCM worked off of prototypes from Chicken Soup for the Soul and was trusted to move quickly. By deploying two separate teams of 2 developers, LCM was able to take each site from prototype to launch on D8 and Pantheon within two weeks, while another team maintained the ongoing feature release schedule on Chicken Soup for the Soul’s massive Drupal 6 site.

In June of 2016, Chicken Soup needed a simple site to promote their line of wholesome pet food and message of overall health and wellbeing for dogs and cats. The site needed to handle a collection of content pages for products and species, as well as a store locator to show users where their products are available. The Chicken Soup Pet Foods site is a microsite that follows standard D8 templating and functionality, as laid out for previous Chicken Soup sites LCM has completed, and new sites that are still to come.

Chicken Soup was looking for an alternative approach.

Building new features to support growing business lines inside their massive aging Drupal 6 site was becoming unsustainable. Over time, the site had accumulated so much functionality that each deployment ran a high risk of breaking something, which led to lengthy deployments. Recognizing that issue, a plan was developed in partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul to spin out a series of smaller, more focused sites sharing a similar architecture. Drupal’s modular architecture, and particularly Drupal 8’s approach to dependency management, made it a great fit for this task. Additionally, while the core CMS functionality of Drupal 6 worked well, the UI was becoming dated and cumbersome to work with. Drupal 8 featured a lot of usability enhancements, such as the built-in WYSIWYG, that would make the site much more usable overall. Finally, the feature set of the site was tightly focused, and after consideration, we were able to implement it with a small handful of contributed modules, and very little technical debt. 

After experiencing some past pain points in using the bare “Configuration Management” system in Drupal 8, we chose to use the Features module on this project. Features makes it easy to bundle configuration into modules, and makes it easier to share configuration (in the form of Drupal modules) between the brand’s sites should the need arise in the future. The site uses Last Call Media’s boilerplate Drupal 8 “scaffolding” tool, which produces an artifact build, and provides a lot of best practices and testing tools out of the box. Other than that, we worked hard to use as much of the core D8 functionality as we possibly could to reduce our future technical debt as contributed modules matured.

The goal of this project was to build a flexible marketing site capable of showcasing Chicken Soup for the Soul’s line of pet food products, promoting the retailers that sell those products, and building flexible pages containing multimedia content. The biggest obstacles the project faced were the looming deadline, the relative instability of Drupal 8 immediately following the initial release, and the lack of contributed modules that were available to us. For example, the Addressfield/Geofield modules we would normally use for the “Find a Retailer” feature were unavailable to us, and we were forced to get creative. We ended up using Google’s Fusion Tables as a datasource, with some javascript to embed the data on the page and provide the interactivity. Overall, this was a great tradeoff, since it allows us to offload the import/edit UI and the proximity to a third party, whereas the old solution required building a custom importer to bring a CSV into Drupal, and a number of slow spatial queries to be made against the database.

Thanks to excellent communication with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Digital Strategy team, and Last Call’s experience in working with Drupal 8, we were able to turn the project around in just two weeks. This met the deadline set by the marketing team, and achieved all of the goals that were set out.