As Shepherd Group Engineering have multiple users, and multiple sites, easy access to each area of the Content Management System (CMS) along with the ability to update almost everything on the page was a top priority for this project.
Starting with the sitemaps which were provided by the client, we sat down with Keltie Cochrane and worked out how best to structure the main website and each branching website below it. In addition to this we also had to consider the potential expansion from 3 sites in future.
With this in mind, we chose to use WordPress and its multisite features for the CMS. Multisite allows one base theme to be applied across all sub sites whilst also allowing customisation on a per-site basis. This customisation covers not only the front end of the site, but the site-by-site user access, pages and menus, which was perfect for Shepherd Groups requirements.
From the initial meetings in York with a panel of staff members from Shepherd Group, we had a good idea of what each area of the site required in terms of functionality. Combining this with the sitemap, a number of page templates were drafted. Each page template required a different focus of functionality, but both Keltie Cochrane and Cargo agreed that ensuring consistancy across all pages and sites was incredibly important from a usability point of view.
At this point the sheer size of the project was abundantly clear and although we wanted to dive into the design and build there was something more important to organise. The content.
In any project, terminology is always an important part of the planning stages, especially when it comes to content. A words meaning to one person can be interpreted completely differently by another depending on context and the industry that person hails from. With so many users and multiple sites to work across, we set out a series of terms for different sections of the sites content to get started.
Using the data we had gained up to this point, a content structure document was created. This document outlined what content area there would be on each page template, along with any call to actions, images and meta information for the pages.
With the sites structure, content flow and framework agreed, we temporarily parted ways with Keltie Cochrane whilst they started doing what they do best, creating beautiful designs. Meanwhile, we began setting up servers based around the needs of the project, ensuring WordPress multisite was running smoothly across multiple domains, testing user access and preparing page structure ready for population.
Once the first round of designs were completed by Keltie Cochrane, we made a start building a style guide page to show exactly how the style of the design would work in the browser. This started off very simple, mainly consisting of text styles and button interactions, and as each page template was worked on visually we added a new building block to the guide. Creating this style guide allowed us to build each block on functionality one step at a time and to plan exactly how it could be integrated into the CMS in the next stages i.e. What terms should be used in the CMS? Should the terms be updated to accommodate the design? Will this functionality be used in multiple locations across the sites?
Flexible content with strong design
With the clean, modern and complex front end design, having a flexible and intuitive back end build was imperative for Shepherd Group Engineering.
A large number of the page templates now designed by Keltie Cochrane, the next step was to put all the planning into action by integrating the built pages into the CMS. An integration of this scale requires a lot of communication between designer, developer and client to ensure terminology remains consistent and the design remains intact with the varying lengths of content that can be added in certain places. Regular calls and the use of Basecamp helped manage any questions, issues and bugs.
A major part of the CMS integration was the flexibility required for what content could be displayed where on almost any page. This comes with a potential trade off with how the design will look across the myriad of devices now available. To solve this problem, we created a series of template specific content options, ranging from a plain content area to flexible tables and image galleries to client quotes. These content options could be added, edited, and re-arranged on page-by-page basis giving the client total customisation over the order of the content on the page, without compromising layout and design.
However, with great power comes great responsibility, so some of the content blocks were required to have text limits and automatic crops of images applied to ensure the page could handle the content being added.
The final product
Overall the websites look fantastic across all devices and the final product speaks for itself. We feel the build not only hits all of the clients functionality requirements but also lives up to the standards set within the designs.
We could sit here and say that the project ran like clockwork, everything ran smoothly and launch wasnt delayed by even a day. But wed be lying. And thats not our style.
In the early stages of the development we sat down face to face with Shepherd Group to run through the functionality of the site and how to update pages, its fair to say Shepherd Group were openly impressed. However they started to realise the possibilities that were open to them within the functionality of the CMS. This did lead us to develop the CMS to enable them to achieve more than they originally envisaged. Although this did delay the project a little, it was apparent just how much added value this additional development would create. Highlighting to us just how important it is to regularly communicate and involve the client throughout the project and ensuring that their experience of working with us was nothing less than 100% positive.
"Cargo were extremely knowledgeable, helpful and diligent throughout the project - everything I would want from a supplier. I would have no trouble recommending them, and most importantly using them again."