Case study: Plant Prefab

Plant Prefab delivers the future of home design — powered by Propane and Contentful

Propane, a digital experience agency headquartered in San Francisco, has built a reputation for tackling complex digital transformation problems for their clients.

In working with Plant Prefab — an environmentally sustainable and high-quality prefabricated home builder and design studio — Propane delivered a single-source-of-truth solution powered by Contentful. Plant Prefab needed a new and compelling lead generation-focused website, as well as a fully immersive 3D home configurator. Both needed to be independently managed and updated via a content solution.

Thanks to Contentful, Propane was able to solve these requirements in under five months and at half the market value.

A need for a rebuild — with no time to spare

Plant Prefab had a problem — it wasn’t able to properly showcase its products to its customers. Its previous legacy CMS lacked the adequate technical architecture to allow visitors and prospective buyers to see all the different configuration options when designing their home. Plant Prefab wanted to show their clients the huge variety of products and materials on offer, so it enlisted the help of Propane to get them on the right track.

Previously, Plant Prefab’s website and their 3D configurator were located on different stacks. It needed a single source of truth — one content hub where all content is accessible to every creator in the company. Plant Prefab also wanted Propane to increase lead-generation opportunities across the site without having to manage separate forms.

Plant Prefab was also looking for a better way to better manage its data modeling. Home designs needed to be tied to architects, and it needed to keep track of home specs, related fixtures, materials and more. Home design data needed to be able to be organized down to the square inch for cost comparisons across the range of materials needed for a project: granite vs. marble, multiple wood finishes for cabinets and choices for flooring.

To add one more twist, their quick and scalable solution was on a tight deadline. Plant Prefab needed to be ready with a new branded digital website and to have the 3D home configurator completed for launch in time for the Modernism Week 2020 trade show.

Streamlined to deliver the homes of the future

Propane knew that Contentful’s agile content platform approach was the best way to set Plant Prefab up for a strong future. Contentful’s headless solution would allow the client to roll tech on and off in the future, while keeping its data stable and protected. Because of Contentful’s data structure flexibility, Propane was able to design a database in sprints, even as requirements changed over the course of the project.

With the power to customize Contentful’s platform to fit Plant Prefab’s complex data structure, as well as its requirements for delivering data across multiple applications, Propane was able to create two standalone front-end experiences: the website and the 3D home configurator. Both applications reside in AWS, but use Contentful differently.

The website is a gatsby.js application that utilizes Circle CI for continuous deployment by using Contentful webhooks that trigger site builds on content updates. Contentful also works well with the front end residing on AWS, where the 3D configurator lies, and heroku where the website front end rests, as it can easily exchange data to both locations.

The 3D configurator uses the Contentful API and the website uses a Gatsby webhook, allowing for a single source of truth for data sharing. Future plans include moving the website to AWS, which will clean up old legacy requirements — a process made much simpler because Contentful is entirely cloud-native.

An agile content platform allows Plant Prefab staff to quickly add new homes, new 3D models and new materials to their content repository while also helping to manage its priority display. By easily calculating the most current material costs, Plant Prefab’s new platform sets the foundation for future ecommerce by giving an up-to-date “Total Cost of Ownership” budget estimate for any prospective homeowner. Now that updates can be made on the fly, Plant Prefab’s clients don’t have to wonder if they are being shown the latest materials or cost information — instead, they can focus on planning the home of their dreams.

About Propane

To accomplish the website and 3D configurator redesign, Propane worked in sprints. After validating the changes with the client, they pushed the new changes out once per day thanks to Contentful’s ability to automate pushes for continuous deployment.

Now Plant Prefab has plenty of power to configure its individual content blocks while maintaining its overall content management platform. Propane reports that the content managers at Plant Prefab easily picked up how to use the new platform, and Propane has future plans to add even richer admin screens to further improve Plant Prefab’s experience with using Contentful. Propane’s UX also took into account the modular nature of lead-generation forms and promotions throughout the site, and created repeatable modules to drive those leads.

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