When it came time for Rangle to build our new website Rangle.io (affectionately dubbed Rio 2.0 by our team) we had only one content management tool in mind. Contentful’s power and flexibility made it an easy choice for us — not just for what we wanted to build now, but for what we’re going to do in the future.
Choosing the right content management tool might have been easy for us, but it’s often a struggle for other companies. With so many tools on the market, including enterprise packages full of bells and whistles, you can fall into the trap of picking the best sales pitch, not what’s really right for your team and your goals.
In our webinar Constraints-free content management is possible, VP of Technology Ditmar Haist and Director of Digital Innovation Rick Poulin share that the most important consideration when choosing a new CMS, or evaluating making a change, is identifying the problem you’re trying to solve (not picking the tool first and fitting your problem to its possibilities and limitations later).
We knew our problem at Rangle. Our previous site wasn’t able to showcase our skills in design and development as a company. We wanted our website not just to communicate information to potential clients, but to act as an advertisement for what we’re able to do. With a clear problem statement for the rebooted website, Contentful was an easy choice for us.
Saying no to an enterprise CMS
In the webinar, Rick and Ditmar also noted that many companies whose website is primarily managed by their marketing team will use an enterprise CMS to make the authoring process as smooth and simple as possible. An enterprise CMS package enforces processes and principles, usually with a standard design, look and feel that is hard to manipulate. It makes the creation and editing of web pages easy, but can also put restrictions on the creativity of a design team, not to mention restricting how you present your brand.
Conversely, headless CMSes and content platforms remove the presentation layer, and the user interface and experience is built by your team of developers. It usually comes at a lower cost, though the upfront work is greater in order to build your site.
We chose to go with Contentful. We wanted to be able to build deep experiences, with all types and forms of content, and not be limited by the structure and restrictions of an enterprise CMS. With the goal of demonstrating the capabilities of our Ranglers — which meant producing all different types of content, from animations to podcasts, while making it available across all platforms and devices, and fully API-integrated — we knew that relying on an enterprise solution would be constraining and frustrating.
We chose Contentful because it’s the market leader and the best tool that allows us to bring in those varied types of content like podcasts, blogs, webinars, and eventually interactive experiences, because it’s API-driven and not limited. There’s the flexibility for us to do incredible designs, and show off a little (or a lot). The authoring team doesn’t have the limiting experience of an enterprise CMS, so we have room to change our minds.
However, it’s important to note that the tech impacts the solution, and you’ve got to weigh the pros and cons of each approach in order to make an informed decision. For our expert React developers, Contentful allowed them to work with frameworks we were most comfortable with, instead of learning the technology for a specific CMS. We were also able to pair Contentful with additional programs to optimize our SEO and site speed, plus give us full control over features like search and analytics.
Our tradeoff was that our teams had to sacrifice an easy interface and presentation layer. Just as mechanics often drive the worst cars, our focus on building the best-looking site on the front end led to less focus on making it easy to use for our marketing team. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to build a super-functional presentation layer that’s user-friendly. We’ve done that for clients before with impressive results. In our case, the importance of launching the new site outweighed the team experience. We’ve learned from that mistake, and now that the site has been up for some months and is ready for a content refresh, we’re working to make those easier for the team to complete.
How we built Rio 2.0
For a consulting company like us, resourcing can be tricky for internal projects. New deals mean that Ranglers are required on client projects in order to achieve consistency (not to mention context). But for this project, it was a priority to not only bring together talented people, but to all do our best work by bonding as a team, instead of the work feeling like a stop gap in between client projects.
To learn more about how Rangle works, read How to craft a high-functioning team.
By dedicating internal resources to the site who were passionate about bringing the experience to life, we were able to craft a brand strategy and the building blocks we needed to bring the site to life on a short timeline, thanks to our dedication to agile workflows.
Our lean site comprises just 10-15 page templates for our content-heavy, information-based pages, with lightweight structures that can adapt easily to change. We put our main focus on great branding, imagery and messaging that will resonate with our target audience. While our presentation layer needs a little improvement, it’s easy enough to use that page builds are handled by our non-technical marketing team.
Our Contentful web app is intuitive and can be learned in minutes, not weeks. This sets it apart from many enterprise CMS packages, where you often need to train or hire platform experts in order to use it effectively.
Right now, we have about ten componentized building blocks that can be configured in different ways to build the pages. This gives us the flexibility to design, build and iterate quickly without being tied to specific layouts, and we can determine the level of flexibility we need.
The big benefit is that we can test pages with low commitment. If a design doesn’t work, we can scrap it, change it, or whatever we need to do. Contentful gives us that flexibility without constraints and enables our marketing team to do rapid creative and messaging testing.
Conclusion: Continuing to iterate
Now that the core pages of the site are built, we’re still balancing the needs of the business with the capabilities of the tool. As we define the site content, we’ll set the rules for how Contentful works for us, but not before. With Contentful, we’re never boxed in. We get to decide how it works at every layer, making it a powerful tool for a company dedicated to agile principles.
What can you do with Contentful? Working with a partner is helpful to ensure that your site build is holistic, with each decision being made to support the overall mission, not just in support of “getting it done.”