About Eurocentres – Language Learning Worldwide
Eurocentres is one of the leading organizations within the language travel industry. Eurocentres is an international company with schools located on four continents and students coming from over 120 countries. Currently, Eurocentres teaches eight languages at 30 schools.
Thanks to a worldwide network of educational agents and own enrollment offices, Eurocentres welcomes over 13 000 students every year at its schools in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan.
As a quality leader, Eurocentres is committed to systematic and personalized language tuition, ensuring learning success and provide highly personalized services. Eurocentres has enjoyed consultative status with the Council of Europe for language learning since 1968 and has played a crucial role in the development of the Common European Framework of Reference for language teaching and learning.
The previous website www.eurocentres.com and other micro sites were outdated in terms of usability and design. It was hard to find the relevant information and to enroll online. The content administration of the worldwide websites in the multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-currency environment was becoming too complicated and took too much time.
The goal of the project was to implement a state-of-the-art web experience, which fulfills the needs of the Eurocentres target groups. The new website had to be user-friendly and cross-cultural, utilizing the latest trends in the Internet industry (e.g. mashups, Ajax, social media).
The major need was to increase the online sales. Therefore, the new online booking solution had to be intuitive, featuring faceted search and seamless integration of a multi-currency web shop. One stop shopping was another key element. Eurocentres wanted to encourage prospective clients not only to buy the language course but also appropriate accommodations, private lessons, insurance and airport transfers.
Another requirement was the extranet for language travel agents. They had to be able to easily download media files such as documents and images. Finally, integration of a media asset management system with role and time-restricted access had to be implemented.
Thinking about SEO and SEM, the new website had to be optimized by utilizing the latest techniques to ensure a high-class ranking in search engines. Special attention had to be given to target specific markets, countries and languages.
Eurocentres was looking for an experienced web agency, able to handle complex development tasks combined with great user experience and design competence. After an intensive RFQ phase and pitch, Eurocentres chose Cando Image GmbH (Cando) for this challenging project.
Cando was responsible for the entire project and developed the concept, user-experience design (UX- and IX), visual design, prototype, development and implementation.
- Modern design with strong focus on user-experience (UX and IX)
- Faceted Search for language courses with instant results
- Online Booking for language courses at schools around the world
- Booking of accommodations along with the chosen course
- Multi-currency handling without currency conversion but fixed prices in multiple currencies per product
- Currency detection for certain client-country and school-location combinations
- Sophisticated business logic for date-based products (courses, accommodations) similar to travel systems/shops, such as handling of price periods, high season and other fees depending on the course-date, duration and destination
- Ajax based shopping cart with convenient basket overview and possibility to change/update the cart content at one place
- Agent intranet and media asset management
- Multilanguage capability: 8 languages including Japanese and Korean
- Migration and interface development for product, price, content and image import
Design and UX-/IX Process
Cando has a strong focus on design and user-experience. In terms of Eurocentres, users should be enthusiastic to search for language courses and finally guided through the enrollment process. Therefore, the concept phase included a clickable prototype (done with Axure RP) and many different visual design samples. To ensure an outstanding user-experience, end-users and all stakeholders of Eurocentres including sales, marketing and the enrollment office, were involved from the beginning. For example, holding workshops with students in the UK brought valuable feedback at an early project stage.
Why Drupal 7
The Drupal Framework provides a lot of common CMS functionality 'out-of-the-box' and these functionalities were important requirements for our client. In addition, we also had to make sure that the chosen framework was flexible enough to fully customize for the complex business logic we had to deal with in this project. The new entity concept of Drupal 7 looked very promising and turned out to be a key factor for our decision.
The new entity translation concept worked out really well for us. With the earlier concept of node translations in Drupal 6 we would have had a node for each translation. Thanks to the new concept, the translation is obviously done at the right place now and there is no need to sync content between several nodes just for the sake of translation.
Another key factor was the e-commerce topic. We noticed that several people involved in e-commerce projects with Drupal 6 and earlier (in particular ubercart and ecommerce) started working together on a new project called Drupal Commerce (which is based on Drupal 7). That means a lot of e-commerce knowledge was brought into one single project. Drupal Commerce was in a very early stage (pre-alpha) when we decided to use it for our project but it's architecture turned out to be very flexible.
Even though we wrote quite a few lines of custom code for the shop, especially to create date based behavior, we were able to do a lot of customization by using rules and views thanks to the seamless integration of Drupal Commerce with those modules. For example: The shopping basket consists of views. Additional fees such as high season, enrollment and many other fees are calculated and added by rules. Products like courses or accommodations are stored as commerce products, each representing a different product variation (e.g. accommodations with different meal plans: half-board, full-board).
The new concept of fieldable entities turned out to be very useful. Nevertheless, because every additional field creates two tables (one for data and one for revisions), we had to be careful not to end up with too many tables. Therefore we were glad to see that creating custom fields with multiple values was a good choice in many cases and even surprisingly easy to achieve. This way we could significantly reduce the amount of tables being created. One example of a custom field with multiple values in our project is the nationality mix information available for a school. Without a custom field we would have had 5 separate fields resulting in 10 tables, with the custom field we ended up having 2 tabels without loosing any flexibility.
Drupal 7 core was not even in alpha stage either at that time, but looking back, we have to say it was the right choice to go with the next major release. What followed was almost nine months of hard work patching and porting modules to Drupal 7, while at the same time, writing custom codes for our specific complex business cases. With the help of many developers in the community, we were finally able to complete this challenging project and were among the first companies to launch a big Drupal 7 based enterprise website!
Development and Deployment Process
For those of you interested on how we handle our development and release cycles at Cando, here is a small summary of the tools and processes we are using:
Our development team is using GIT for version control and code sharing as well as, Gitosis for fine granular permission control. The deployment process is handled by a Hudson environment using Phing (PHP project build system or build tool based on Apache Ant). When a specific version is being deployed to a desired environment (e.g. test, pre-production, production), the code for that version is cloned from the repository, unit tests are triggered and afterwards the code is being synced to the environment. In case of Drupal, most configurations are stored in code. Here we get to a topic where we hope, Drupal 8 will learn from other frameworks: Configuration Management. As some of you might imagine, we spent quite some time on patching the Features module. Configuration deployment across multiple environments has always been a crucial factor to us when working on larger enterprise level applications. However, the Features module enabled us to have more or less, a clean way to achieve our goals. The next major version of Drupal looks promising related to that topic.
- Multilanguage: 8 Languages incl. Japanese and Korean with some advanced encoding challenges
- Commerce Product Entities: ~175'000
- Nodes: ~1000 (Compared to D6 without entity-/field translation this would mean ~8000 nodes since most nodes are translated)
- Whole site can be built running an install profile:
- 1h install duration incl. basic data migration (covers major part of the content)
- 1h product pre-generation, where some complex date based price calculations (for price periods in travel market) take place
- 1.5h product migration
Modules being used in this project are:
Cando Image GmbH (Cando)
Luke Bochsler, Managing Partner - Project Lead
Peter Philipp, Software Architect - Lead Developer
Cando Image GmbH
Else Züblinstrasse 115
Phone: +41 52 214 01 90
E-Mail: info (at) cando-image.com
Special thanks to
About Cando Image
Cando Image GmbH (Cando) is a Swiss Web Agency with headquarters in Winterthur, Switzerland. From design to implementation, Cando is leading the way to unique internet-based solutions where user-experience plays a major role.
Cando takes care from start to finish of each project. We usually begin with a well defined concept phase including personas, scenarios, user-stories, wireframes and clickable prototypes. We complement this with state-of-the art visual design. Finally, each project is implemented by following an agile development process.
Cando was founded in 2006 and is a fast growing privately held company. The founders have a strong track record in establishing successful start-ups in the IT industry. The core team exists of experienced consultants and developers responsible for complex e-business solutions and portals for international clients. Amongst them are market leaders in Switzerland, Germany and Japan.