The Brief

New Drupal, New Design

Migrating a massive site like healthdata.org is challenging enough, but implementing a new site design simultaneously made the process even more complex. IHME wanted a partner with the digital expertise to translate its internal design team’s page designs into a flexible, functional set of components  — and then bring it all to life in the latest Drupal environment. Key goals included:


The Approach

The new healthdata.org site required a delicate balance of form and function. Oomph consulted closely with IHME on the front-end page designs, then produced a full component-based design system in Drupal that would allow the site’s content to shine now and in the future — all while achieving conformance with WCAG 2.1 standards.

Equipping IHME To Lead the Public Health Conversation

Collaborating on a Comprehensive Content Model

IHME needed the site to support a wide variety of content and give its team complete control over landing page layouts, but the organization had limited resources to achieve its ambitious goals. Oomph and IHME went through several rounds of content modeling and architecture diagramming to right-size the number and type of components. We converted their full-page designs into annotated flex content diagrams so IHME could see how the proposed flex-content architecture would function down to the field level. We also worked with the IHME team to build a comprehensive list of existing features — including out-of-the-box, plugins, and custom — and determine which ones to drop, replace, or upgrade. We then rewrote any custom features that made the grade for the Drupal migration.

Building Custom Teaser Modules

The IHME team’s design relied heavily on node teaser views to highlight articles, events, and other content resources. Depending on the teaser’s placement, each teaser needed to display different data — some displayed author names, for example, while others displayed only a journal title. Oomph built a module encompassing all of the different teaser rules IHME needed depending on the component the teaser was being displayed in. The teaser module we built even became the inspiration for the Shared Fields Display Settings module Oomph is developing for Drupal.

Creating a Fresh, Functional Design System

With IHME’s new content model in place, we used Layout Paragraphs in Drupal to build a full design system and component library for healthdata.org. Layout Paragraphs acts like a visual page builder, enabling the IHME team to construct feature rich pages using a drag and drop editor. We gave IHME added flexibility through customizable templates that make use of its extensive component library, as well as a customized slider layout that provides the team with even more display options.

You all are a fantastic team — professional yet personal; dedicated but not stressed; efficient, well-planned, and organized. Thank you so much and we look forward to more projects together in the future!

CHRIS ODELL Senior Product Manager: Digital Experience, University of Washington

The Results

Working to Make Citizens and Communities Healthier 

IHME has long been a leader in population health, and its migration to the latest version of Drupal ensures it can lead for a long time. By working with Oomph to balance technical and design considerations at every step, IHME was able to transform its vision into a powerful and purposeful site — while giving its team the tools to showcase its ever-growing body of insights. The new healthdata.org has already received a Digital Health Award, cementing its reputation as an essential digital resource for the public health community.


THE BRIEF

Same Look, Better Build

Ordinarily, when we embark on rearchitecting a site, it happens as part of a complete front-end and back-end overhaul. This was a unique situation. Visit California users enjoyed the site’s design and helpful content features, so we did not want to disrupt that. At the same time, we needed to upgrade the frustrating back-end experience, look for broken templates, and find optimizations in content and media along the way.   

An underperforming API (which functions like an information pipeline to move content from one part of the site to another) and bloated data/code resulted in sluggish site performance and slow content updates/deployments. If the Visit California team wanted to change a single sentence on the site, pushing it live took well over an hour, sometimes longer — and often the build failed. Poorly optimized images slowed the site down even further, especially for the mobile visitors who make up the majority of site traffic. 

They were in dire need of a decoupled site connection overhaul so they could: 


THE APPROACH

Oomph started by looking under the hood — or, in this case, under the APIs. While APIs are supposed to make sites perform better, an outdated API was at the root of Visit California’s problem. Over the course of the project, Oomph integrated a new API, optimized images, and corrected bottlenecks across the site to make updates a breeze.

Putting Visit California in the Fast Lane

Implemented a New API

Visit California needed an API that could more quickly move data from the back end to the front. Two previous clients shared Visit California’s back-end architecture but used a modern JSON API Drupal module successfully. Switching from the GraphQL module to JSON API on the back end streamlined the amount of data, resulting in the team updating content or code in minutes instead of hours or days.

Streamlined Data During Deployments

On the front end, a Gatsby Source GraphQL plugin contributed to the issue by pulling and refreshing all data from the entire system with each content update. Oomph replaced the faulty plugin, which had known limitations and lacked support, with the Gatsby Source Drupal plugin.  On the back end, the Gatsby Integration module was configured to work with JSON API to provide incremental builds — a process that pulls only updated content for faster deployments.

Avg. full build time

64 min

Unexplained failure rate Before

52 %

Avg. incremental build time

42 min

Unexplained failure rate After

0 %

Fixed Image Processing Bottlenecks

Because we were already in the code, both teams agreed this was a great opportunity to identify improvements to boost page performance. We found that image processing was a drag — the site previously processed images during deployment rather than processing them ahead of time on the back-end. Oomph used the JSON API Image Styles module to create image derivatives (copies) in different sizes, ultimately decreasing build times. 

Lightened the Load on the Back-End

As Oomph configured the new architecture, we scoured the site for other opportunities to reduce cruft. Additional improvements included removing deprecated code and rewriting code responsible for creating front-end pages, eliminating static queries running thousands of times during page creation. We also resized large images and configured their Drupal site to set sizing guardrails for photos their team may add in the future.

Home page weight before and after:

Page WeightBeforeAfter% Change
Desktop25.41 MB3.61 MBDown 85.79%
Mobile12.07 MB3.62 MBDown 70.01%

Visualizing the improvements to loading speed:

Core Web Vitals Improvements:


THE RESULTS

Exploring the Golden State, One Story at a Time

Once Oomph was done, the Visit California site looked the same, but the load times were significantly faster, making the site more easily accessible to users. By devising a strategy to pull the same data using completely different methods, Oomph created a streamlined deployment process that was night and day for the Visit California team. 

The massive initiative involved 75,000 lines of code, 23 front-end templates, and plenty of collaboration, but the results were worth it: a noticeably faster site, a markedly less frustrating authoring experience, and page performance that would make any Californian proud.


THE BRIEF

A Creative Beacon Sets a New Path

The RISD Museum is the 20th largest art museum in the United States with over 100,000 objects in its collection, including Ancient art, costumes, textiles, painting, sculpture, contemporary art, furniture, photography, and more. The museum occupies more than 72,000 square feet in three historic and two contemporary buildings along Providence’s bustling South Main Street and riverfront.

We often say that a website redesign is more like a collective therapy session — it’s an opportunity to air grievances in a safe space, to think about the future untethered to the present situation, and make decisions that could change the course of the organization. Since many websites are more than just a marketing platform, a redesign can affect the entire organization and the way they communicate their value to their own team and the world.

At the heart of this project were large, existential questions:

What does it mean to be a physical institution collecting physical objects in a digital world?

What do viewers want out of a museum experience in an interactive space?

Can a museum be more relaxed about how viewers will interpret the work?

Open Source the Museum’s Entire Collection

Behind the Museum’s initiative to re-platform the website from a closed system to an open source system like Drupal 8 was another, perhaps even larger, initiative: a plan to “open source” the museum’s entire collection. They will bring all 100,000 objects online (they have a little over 13,000 available prior to launch, a mere 13%) and use a Creative Commons license system that allows visitors to download and repurpose high-resolution images whenever the objects are in the public domain. This was the heart of the revolution upon which the RISD Museum was about to embark.


THE APPROACH

MuseumPlus & Drupal 8 equals Open Access

The heavy lift for our engineers was an integration with RISD’s museum software, MuseumPlus. MuseumPlus needed to continue to be the source of truth for any object, artist, or exhibition. The teams again collaborated extensively to work towards an API that could provide all the correct information

between the two databases, and a system of daily jobs and manual overrides to start a synchronization process. As the online connection grows, these connections will be the critical link between the public-facing object data and the internal records.

The aesthetics of the site became a structural backdrop for the objects, artwork, and images of people in the physical spaces of the museum.

Gray and white wireframes evolved into a black and white interface that kept information clear and clean while allowing the colors of the artwork to shine through. Language around the site’s architecture was simplified and tested for clarity. An element of time — words like Soon, Upcoming, Now, Ongoing, Past — keeps the visitor grounded around the idea of a physical visit, while open access to objects online serves a whole community of art lovers and historians that may never be able to visit in person.

A bold storytelling idea came out of our collective collaborative process — the homepage experience opens with four videos, a cinematic exterior shot and three interior videos that explore the three main sections of the navigation. The homepage becomes a gateway into the physical space. Choosing a path via the navigation takes the viewer inside to explore the spaces and the objects. Instead of a homepage that assumes a visitor wants to see everything and then choose something to explore deeper, this one introduces them to the content in a way that connects them to the physical space.


THE RESULTS

Site visit patterns have seen significant improvement — sessions per user and pages per session have increased while bounce rate has decreased. Thanks are due in part to the new hosting environment with Acquia, which has provided hefty speed increases and stability — page load times have decreased, server response time is significantly less, and page download time is far less as well.


FINAL THOUGHTS

An Evolving Partnership

As the RISD Museum grows their online collection even further, we have identified a backlog of ideas that we’d love to address, from a more fully featured search, an integrated audio guide, and a more open and collaborative way for users to share back what they have done with the museum’s assets. A new Drupal 8 implementation gives the museum plenty of room to grow virtually. The collaborative relationship between Oomph and the RISD Museum is only beginning.


Want to know a little more? — J. Hogue, Director of Design & UX at Oomph, and Jeremy Radtke, Assistant Director, Digital Initiatives, RISD Museum, gave a presentation at Design Week RI on September 20, 2018, all about the process of the redesign.


THE BRIEF

The Virtual Lab School (VLS) supports military educators with training and enrichment around educational practices from birth through age 12. Their curriculum was developed by a partnership between Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Defense to assist direct-care providers, curriculum specialists, management personnel, and home-based care providers. Because of the distributed nature of educators around the world, courses and certifications are offered virtually through the VLS website.

Comprehensive Platform Assessment

The existing online learning platform had a deep level of complexity under the surface. For a student educator taking a certification course, the site tracks progress through the curriculum. For training leaders, they need to see how their students are progressing, assign additional coursework, or assist a student educator through a particular certification.

Learning platforms in general are complex, and this one is no different. Add to this an intertwined set of military-style administration privileges and it produces a complex tree of layers and permutations.

The focus of the platform assessment phase was to catalog features of the largely undocumented legacy system, uncover complexity that could be simplified, and most importantly identify opportunities for efficiencies.


THE RESULTS

Personalized Online Learning Experience

Enrollment and Administration Portal

Administrators and instructors leverage an enrollment portal to manage the onboarding of new students and view progress on coursework and certifications.

Course Material Delivery

Students experience the course material through a combination of reading, video, and offline coursework downloads for completion and submission.

Learning Assessments & Grading

Students are tested with online assessments, where grading and suggestions are delivered in real time, and submission of offline assignments for review by instructors.

Progress Pathways

A personalized student dashboard is the window into progress, allowing students to see which courses have been started, how much is left to complete, and the status of their certifications.

Certification

Completed coursework and assessments lead students to a point of certification resulting in a printable Certificate of Completion.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Faster and More Secure than Ever Before

When building for speed and scalability, fully leveraging Drupal’s advanced caching system is a major way to support those goals. The system design leverages query- and render-caching to support a high level of performance while also supporting personalization to an individual level. This is accomplished with computed fields and auto-placeholdering utilizing lazy builder.

The result is an application that is quicker to load, more secure, and able to support hundreds more concurrent users.

Why Drupal?

When building for speed and scalability, fully leveraging Drupal’s advanced caching system is a major way to support those goals. The system design leverages query- and render-caching to support a high level of performance while also supporting personalization to an individual level. This is accomplished with computed fields and auto-placeholdering utilizing lazy builder.

The result is an application that is quicker to load, more secure, and able to support hundreds more concurrent users.