Electrical Contractor Magazine

The ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine website formerly required a large amount of work for low value tasks, but with the automation of key processes through this web platform its staff can now perform less work to drive a much higher value. "As we develop the capabilities that the flexible Drupal platform gives us, we're finding that we're able to do so many things that we couldn't before. We can't wait to figure out all that we can do," said publisher, John Maisel.

Electrical Contractor Magazine was a 2013 Blue Drop Awards finalist for Best Media Website Built With Drupal.

Why Drupal was chosen: 

Drupal was chosen as the platform for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine because of its ability to manage a large volume of content and provide the content management and control the staff of ECmag.com required.

Describe the project (goals, requirements and outcome): 

Goals

ECmag.com had built up a strong readership, but its online presence did not reflect the thought leadership that its subscribers looked to them for.

Out-Dated Technology

ECmag.com was previously built on a proprietary Cold Fusion platform, which complicated upgrades. Scaling the website to accommodate growth was extremely difficult, greatly limiting ECmag.com’s ability to keep up with an ever-changing web. The CMS they had previously would not easily accomodate change without requiring a rebuild of the system. The format was extremely rigid and restricted ECmag.com's ability to add video or other media on its site.

No Content Control

One of the missions of ECmag is to provide readers with the most complete information available in their industry. Unfortunately, the level of control afforded to the staff of ECmag.com was limited, making updates a manual and time intensive process. Most changes had to be by an outside firm, making even the smallest change cumbersome. Additionally, each new article had to be imported one at a time and like articles had to also be related by title, so that the process was highly manual and based on the user’s knowledge of existing content to build relationships.

Limited Engagement

ECmag.com’s audience was restricted in the way that they could search to find content to match their interests as well as to engage with the content presented. Article ranking, commenting and sharing was limited.

ECmag.com needed a platform and image that best reflected the brand and personality of their award-winning magazine. John Maisel, Publisher of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Magazine commented, "It just wasn't working. Technology isn't my long suit, but I realized that if we were going to stay competitive, we had to make major changes."

Requirements

Unleashed Technologies was asked to build a dynamic platform for ECmag that would bring them increased control, usability and scalability. The solution was built using the open source Drupal 7 platform and leveraging Unleashed Technologies' substantial knowledge of online magazines and publication production to get it to market quickly. This new platform delivered:

• Granular control over website content, including article placement, photo galleries, and content correlation
• A strong taxonomy structure to improve search and disparate content associations
• A flexible advertising solution with the ability to serve a variety of third-party ads, choose their position and display frequency, and report fully on impressions
• XML batch importer to automate and streamline the addition of new content
• Dynamic author control enabling universal updates and the ability for visitors to subscribe to individual authors
• Robust rating system for articles
• Integration of the Disqus commenting platform
• Java and HTML 5 best practices to support engaging design elements, such as the homepage banner, coverflow of past issues, and media kit

Throughout the development of this platform, Unleashed Technologies worked closely with Bates Creative Group to ensure that the technology fully supported their intuitive design to enable ECmag.com to deliver a superior experience to its users.

Outcome

The robust platform developed by Unleashed Technologies combined with the intuitive design provided by Bates Creative deliver a highly engaging, dynamic web presence for ECmag. The ECmag website formerly required a high amount of work for low value tasks, but with the automation of key processes through this web platform its staff can now perform less work to drive a much higher value. "As we develop the capabilities that the flexible Drupal platform gives us, we're finding that we're able to do so many things that we couldn't before. We can't wait to figure out all that we can do," said John Maisel.

With this renewed web presence, ECmag has:

• Increased web engagement through an intuitive design, social enablement, and information architecture
• Grown website traffic with a 20% increase in impressions in the first month after deployment
• Met visitor expectations with targeted search results and content correlation
• Improved revenue opportunity with a robust advertising platform
• Reduced manual processes and eased management with automated importing and granular content control
• 200% - 425% reduction of page load times with sub-two second initial page loads and less than one second cached load speeds

The combined efforts of Bates Creative Group and Unleashed Technologies resulted in the creation of a web presence for Electrical Contractor magazine that not only reinforces, but expands, its industry leadership. "There are things a magazine can do that a website can't, but there are many things a website can do that a magazine can't. We're striving to offer our customers - both readers and advertisers - a broad way to interact. Our new site has enabled us to do that more effectively and efficiently. Whether it's an advertiser trying to reach a market or the market trying to get information, having this added dimension is invaluable," commented John Maisel.

Modules/Themes/Distributions
Why these modules/theme/distribution were chosen: 

Drupal 7 was chosen as the distribution for ECmag.com in order to deliver the robust functionality required for the site and serve as a platform for today's requirements and tomorrow's future needs. In order to support the cutting edge design provided by Bates Creative, a custom theme was used. The following modules were among those used in order to provide the content control, online engagement and advertising flexibility (among other benefits) ECmag.com required:

• Total Control Admin Dashboard - This module was used along with several menu, view and style modules to empower ECmag to manage content and edits as well as to view the magazine's information by volume, content by category and to manage online advertisements. The Total Control module was chosen because it provides an easy interface for managing large amounts of content with the ability to customize the organization of the admin menu.
• Apache Solr Search - Solr delivers superior search results quickly to online visitors. Unleashed Technologies uses Solr in conjunction with several other search modules (i.e. Search API Autocomplete) to customize and further enhance search functionality and results.
• Taxonomy View Integration (TVI) - This module is essential for the successful creation of a taxonomy-based website with its page sorting and category creation by view capabilities.
• Quicktabs - Quicktabs easily renders the tabs for sidebar blocks and completes simple sorting for AJAX view sorts.
• SimpleAds - This module was installed and customized to handle the large volumes of advertisements required by ECmag.com. We we able to leverage this module to create custom, on-demand reporting for advertising statistics.
• Custom XML Importer - This module was developed by Unleashed Technologies to import large amounts of content via XML from InDesign formatted files into the Drupal database, saving many hours of manual effort that would otherwise be required to bring material designed for print online.
• Trimmed Plaintext - This is a great module for helping to reduce the number of templates required to handle multiple page styles.
• ShareThis - This is a highly customizable module that helps to spread content socially.

Project team: 

Development Company: Unleashed Technologies