Greg Allen, who founded the web design agency First + Third in 2012, explains how choosing the right CMS grows audience, and reduces the time needed for redesigns.
Case Study interview with Greg Allen, CEO & Founder, First + Third
Saveur, started in 1994, is a gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine that investigates the intricacies of various world cuisines. Saveur chose to execute a website re-design so that the experience of digesting the online content matched the high-end taste of the audience. Web design agency First + Third worked with Saveur's CMS ("content management system") technology provider, Organic, to complete the redesign in less than 30 days.
"When I'm coming in with another client, and let's say it's just a WordPress site, we have to think about hosting, we have to think about caching, we have to think about site architecture. It just adds a layer of conversation with the client that we don't have to have when working with the Organic Platform. With Organic, we can hit the ground running, as it allows us to skip steps."
How does the decision to use WordPress as a CMS affect the experience for redesigning developers?
"WordPress is a great foundation, but it only provides so much. And, you have to make a lot of decisions — when you pick WordPress, there's a lot of decision trees from there. With Organic, you have best practices layered on top that allows us [as developers] to not have to make a bunch of decisions. We could instead come in and say, 'All right, we know that this is going to work really well, and we can just focus on frontend [user experience].'"
What was the best part about working on the CMS redesign for Saveur?
"The best part of working on Saveur was that we could just focus on the UI, and just focus on the interactions — the little animations here and there that usually get pushed out. Normally we're working on caching, and have to nail down caching before we can do animations. [Working with Organic] opened the door for us and it's why the project took just a month — because we could just focus on the fun stuff."
How does a more modern codebase improve the experience of working on a user experience redesign for a brand like Saveur?
"The Organic Platform let us skip a bunch of steps, and really lets us focus on the user and user experience. The user experience is what makes all these sites unique — right? We didn't have to think about caching, we didn't have to think about routing, we didn't have to think about how things were structured, and we could literally just focus on the user experience. [Organic] removed all the DevOps stuff that feels so repetitive, that you have to do on every site — over and over and over again. We didn't have to worry about that.
WordPress is a great framework, but there are also a lot of decisions you can make — and a lot of bad decisions. Based on all the experience that we all have as site developers, we know what works, so let's skip steps to just focus on the things that really make a difference."
How was the team dynamic working on the CMS redesign for Saveur?
"The great part is that it was a team; it was three companies* coming together with a common goal. It was a very collaborative and fun project. After I talked to my team, everyone says Saveur was one of the most fun projects that they worked on. Yes it was a sprint, and yes it was fast, but we got to play with new tech, we got to build a site that looks really good, it got to launch on time, and everyone felt great about it.
It's rare in the agency space when, at the end of a project, everyone feels great about it. It was one of the smoother projects we've ever done."
*nb —> 3 companies = Saveur, First + Third, Organic
What advice do you have for publishers who are figuring out how to choose a CMS?
"Caching isn't going to make your brand that much different than any other brand. You need to create a feeling; invoke a feeling — and the way you do that is with a really great UI and great experience. What Organic does is that you don't have to worry about a lot of other [tech] stuff — you can really just focus on things that will differentiate you from everybody else.
After Saveur launched, I had my team asking if they could work on the next Organic project: They would say, 'I want to work on React; I don't want to be writing PhP all day.' The [Organic] Developer experience is top-notch. Organic's absolutely created a framework that's very intuitive, very easy to use — and my team wants to build sites on it."