Confusing UI and limited search capabilities halted editorial momentum
Content was spread across multiple systems, making it difficult to manage
Outdated technology restricted the incorporation of modern tools and strategies
SEO rankings and site performance had room to improve
Deep customizations and easy integration with Elastic search enhances editorial UI
A cloud-native digital stack enables aggregation of static and dynamic content
API-first approach requires little development to introduce data analytic and other tools
Quick proof of concept builds confidence that content can be migrated with ease
“Our website is probably more important now than it has been historically for Fitch. It really promotes our key principles of people, products and insights. We wanted a more engaging, more personalized experience overall that really showcases our thought leadership in the market."
“Whether it is in analytics tools … making sure that we pre-render the content or … making sure that we measure the engagement or conversions — all of that is baked in. And we are already seeing the benefit in terms of conversion rates.”
For more than a century, Fitch Ratings has been a global leader in the credit rating business. And, while the brand is an expert in collecting and publishing complex research, rating actions and insights in various forms – text, image and video — it needed a little help with organization and presentation. Fitch Ratings wanted to modernize its website in a way that would please internal and end users spread across 30 countries while still maintaining multi-jurisdiction compliance and strong performance.
In 2019, Fitch Ratings website owner Peter Jones reached out to digital consultancy Appnovation for strategic recommendations and implementation support. Appnovation had the experience and talent to bring Fitch Ratings's site into the 21st century. They went one step further, teaching internal team members how to better manage their new site going forward.
Appnovation rolled out the new Fitch Ratings website on the Contentful platform in March 2020 after successfully moving the website to a cloud-native digital stack.
When the customer really needs to come first
At the onset of their digital transformation, Fitch Ratings defined how to support better internal user experiences — which meant discussing what wasn’t working. Internal users reported a lack of site sophistication across the board. Most specifically, their current content solution offered little support for promotional efforts, frequently dropped newsletter opt-ins and mixed-up editorial and product offerings more often than not. While these issues caused headaches for almost everyone on the Fitch Rating team, they were the most disruptive to the developers and content creators tasked with ironing out these errors.
Publishing speed was another pain point. With a system slow to compile and a rigid interface, Fitch Ratings struggled to scale despite paying top dollar for its legacy CMS-tied code. “We live in a very media-driven world. We produce top-quality videos, webinars, podcasts, interactive content and knew we’d need a more robust, flexible platform to support that,” says Peter. “We needed a structure that was contextual and interest-driven.”
Key to content migration: Starting small with a proof of concept
After Appnovation and Fitch Ratings determined additional platform needs, they married those with predetermined ones. The new platform would have to gather analytics and publish large masses of content (upwards of half a million articles, all with compliance requirements) from different sources, including backend systems and live feeds.
“All of this needed to be wrapped up in an atomic user interface. We needed to make it completely component-driven, so Fitch could reuse bits of functionality as they required and of course, make it sociable,” elaborates John Sutherby, European lead of technology at Appnovation.
John and the rest of the Appnovation team suggested implementing a modern architecture like Contentful. And, although the company felt sure Contentful was up to the challenge, it began with a proof of concept just to be sure. The company launched small reports, validated their results, and adjusted for the next release.
“Contentful really is a core component of the solution. We can have a clear model of the content structure that’s divorced from the presentation and allows us to reuse that content as necessary,” notes John. While Storybook led the new website's frontend design, Contentful’s modularity and support for reuse streamlined the design process.
Why Contentful was the ideal platform
When it came time to turn the proof of concept into the final, global website, Fitch Ratings’s extensive library of published content made migration complexities a chief concern. Fortunately, Contentful’s API-first nature and cloud-based services kept migration time and costs low — a huge win in Appnovation and Fitch Ratings’s books.
After developers got the green light on their proof of concept, Appnovation and Fitch Ratings’s globally-spread tiger team worked in two-week sprints to move their old site to Contentful. “We had developers from all over — London, New York, Chicago — working on the project. The fact that Contentful is cloud-based really unified them,” says John.
Throughout the reengineering phase, Appnovation paid close attention to enhancing security, increasing delivery speed and streamlining information assimilation. Contentful made carrying out plans in each category seamless.
Supporting their editors now and in the future
The company’s newly designed platform offers seamless integration and can support increased content loads. Content editors on the frontline are able to publish new content directly to the correctly tagged output channels and those blocks of information are now interchangeable between the desired scenarios of any device: specific user interface, featured article, highlight, etc.
“There’s a seamless transition between our marketing, research and editorial content,” says Param Rengaiah, director of web platforms at Fitch Ratings. “This really helps us curate our content and put it in front of the right audience at the right time.”
With a lot of workflows in place, Fitch Ratings’s editors have never been more productive or organized. The clean, straightforward UI helps with this by offering concise project overviews.
“You can really dial down the components and then build on them as you find new needs for your pages and page templates. It’s wonderful having the ability to enrich designs and test out the UI and UX to ensure they work together properly,” says John. “Elasticsearch is also a major component — we used it to index content along with a GraphQL server. Customers coming to the website need to find content fast.”
Using the right content architecture also means you can work with the App Framework to integrate optimization and digital asset management or work with everyday tools like commenting on content, assigning tasks, and checking workflows. “And especially the one thing I hear from users of the Contentful web app is that it’s always up-to-date,” Sunna says. “You get new features rolled out every time Contentful releases something new.”
Measuring success since the new website rolled out
Shortly after launching their re-platformed site, the company began seeing positive results. Fitch’s SEO improved to the tune of 130%. Plus, data and user analytics became more accurate. There’s been an increase in newsletter sign-ups, an increase in efficiency on the publishing team and time to publish has shrunk. “We're seeing increased engagement on the site. The frequency of returning visitors is rising and the whole web experience is more enjoyable,” says Peter.
The company plans to localize these components to advance Fitch’s marketing goals further. It will delegate a corner of the platform to a local office that can control what’s relevant to their region. “Contentful offers a solid foundation that we can build our future projects on,” Jones says. “It's a very scalable platform with a lot of flexibility regarding different output channels.”
The Fitch Ratings website is a prime example of using a flexible tool like Contentful’s content platform to migrate structured content into a component-based design in a complex environment that allows the website to scale over time, easily pushing it to any device or media in the future.