Lacked an easy way to collaborate on content creation with clients
Had little support for developing custom content models
Technology limitations made for a difficult mobile app development process
A centralized system facilitates in-app, cross-functional collaboration
A headless architecture offers flexibility to define unique content structures
An out-of-the-box mobile development infrastructure supports quick builds
"We wanted to move to a robust, flexible platform that would help us easily manage content. Contentful matched all our criteria and we found working with the system to be very straightforward."
Hit the ground running
It turns out preparing content for a marathon training app involves a lot of coordination. ASICS representatives must collaborate with organizational committees to obtain high-level details. The project team then works with different internal departments to brainstorm, build out and incorporate fitness tips, nutritional advice and checklists.
As the race date approaches, the AQ team typically goes through multiple content revisions incorporating last-minute logistical changes and updating their gear section with fresh, event-related merchandise. "Initially, we managed this workflow with emails and spreadsheets," says AQ Managing partner Paul Baron. "But, as the number of apps and supported platforms grew, we realized that production flow needed to be upgraded."
"We wanted to move to a robust, flexible platform that would help us easily manage content," Paul elaborates. "Contentful matched all our criteria and we found working with the system to be very straightforward."
Where Contentful really surpassed AQ's expectations was in the case of onboarding new clients. AQ client ASICS was able to learn the product and begin using it almost immediately.
Rise to a challenge
Accommodating different types of content within the same platform was another challenge the AQ team faced with their previous technology and workflows. The marathon app includes geo-tagged data, race videos and merchandise images. It also includes a significant amount of content.
Open-source content management alternatives like Wordpress and Drupal provided an efficient way to manage the brand's standard web pages. But, hacking them to support in-app content would be a risky undertaking with no guarantee of success. If AQ did continue on with a monolith, they'd have to apply these workarounds to each new version of the app, adding mountains of technical debt to what could be a straightforward project if supported by the proper technology.
"Replicating our app’s complex content model in Contentful was a crucial test to check how flexible and scalable the platform was," notes Paul. "We finished mapping content in a few days and we were amazed by how easy it was to go back and modify the model when we saw an opportunity to streamline something."
By defining their custom content model, AQ benefited from built-in validation options, which provided content editors with recommended entry lengths and showed permitted attachment types. "Validating content entries saved us a good chunk of time simply by alerting content editors on the spot to problems with their submissions," says Paul.
Sustained oxygen boost
Once the latest edition of the marathon app ships to the App Store and Google Play, the team's focus will shift to more long-term goals. "Given how successful ASICS is at engaging with marathon runners, we expect to double the number of races supported by the Marathon Navigator in the foreseeable future," Paul imagines. If this is the case, it'll be important for the team to be able to reuse, extend and update in-app content quickly.
To eliminate the possibility of duplicate work, AQ can tap into the Content Management and Content Delivery APIs to automate content. Team members can also use the editor view to update or add new content.
While the time savings that these features provide is appreciated by content creators — it's pale in comparison to the productivity leap seen on the development side. Thanks to the robust Content Delivery API, AQ's development cycles are reduced by several orders of magnitude. "We can now build apps at least 2-3 times faster than before avoiding technical debt and allowing our clients to directly manage and update content," concludes Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko, CTO of AQ.