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By 2008, Zappos.com's group of sites had grown to over 10 sites including an international site Canada.Zappos.com, lifestyle driven vertical sites like Running.Zappos.com, Outdoor.Zappos.com and Powered By Zappos (PBZ) Sites, which are white label brand partner sites, like Clarks.Zappos.com, StuartWeitzman.Zappos.com etc. The increasing maintenance of non-ecommerce portions without any kind of CMS was stretching the small front-end development team’s resources thin and forcing code deploys for simple wording updates. The need for some kind of tool or CMS was a priority.
At SXSW '08, I attended a session called Content Management System Roundup where SharePoint, Expression Engine, Collage and Drupal were presented. Jeff Eaton, from Lullabot gave a great presentation on Drupal, including a showcase of some higher profile sites that were running Drupal, I was impressed with the variety of sites running Drupal and the fact that they were high-traffic sites. I had a chance to talk to Jeff Eaton and Mike Essl after the sessions about the strengths and weaknesses of the CMS and both agreed for some of the things we'd use a CMS for at Zappos, Drupal would be a solid solution.
First Drupal Project
At the end of 2007 we implemented Blogs.Zappos.com using Jive's Clearspace software, we considered using Clearspace to be our CMS of choice but by early 2008 the absence of certain features and other issues made us consider other options. About.Zappos.com was a project that had been discussed by Tony, CEO of Zappos, as a central place to put all culture and company related content. Since this site would be a standalone site, it gave us a great opportunity to try Drupal with little risk. We already had a front-end developer working on adding more blogs to Blogs.Zappos.com and a new hire, Geoff, who we assigned to the About.Zappos.com project. The idea was to let each work on their projects and occasionally switch places and work on the other CMS so they could compare and contrast the features and development time. Drupal ended up being superior in terms of templating and development as well as adding new features and ease of use for the end user. About.Zappos.com successfully launched and Zappos had its first Drupal powered site.
With one Drupal site under our belt we turned to the new Zeta site (the Beta version of Zappos.com), which had quite a few Customer Service and FAQ pages that could be managed inside of Drupal. So began our next project of moving those CS and FAQ pages into Drupal. Other projects included a term glossary and various mini-apps that were more easily done with Drupal than writing them from scratch.
Advanced Landing Pages and Powered By Zappos customer service pages were the next initiatives. With Advanced Landing Pages (seen here: http://www.zappos.com/shoes ) it's the first time Drupal is being used on an e-commerce portion of the site. Given the short-time frame for this project, leveraging Drupal's powerful CMS tools while simultaneously querying the Zappos product catalog and displaying it with Drupal was a quick and effective way to give the User Experience team the control they desired in a robust system customizable fashion. The Advanced Landing Page project again made use of pulling in template data into Drupal from non-Drupal parts of the site, this allowed for changes to be made in one place rather than multiple places.