There’s a new acronym on the block: MACH (pronounced “mock”) architecture.
But like X is to Twitter, MACH is more a rebrand than a reinvention. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with the M, A, C, and H and may even use them across your digital properties. While we’ve been helping our clients implement aspects of MACH architecture for years, organizations like the MACH Alliance have recently formed in an attempt to provide clearer definition around the approach, as well as to align their service offerings with the technologies at hand.
One thing we’ve learned at Oomph after years of working with these technologies? It isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many degrees of MACH adoption, and how far you go depends on your organization and its unique needs.
But first, you need to know what MACH architecture is, why it’s great (and when it’s not), and how to get started.
What Is MACH?
MACH is an approach to designing, building, and testing agile digital systems — particularly websites. It stands for microservices, APIs, cloud-native, and headless.
Like a composable business, MACH unites a few tried-and-true components into a single, seamless framework for building modern digital systems.
The components of MACH architecture are:
- Microservices: Many online features and functions can be separated into more specific tasks, or microservices. Modern web apps often rely on specialized vendors to offer individual services, like sending emails, authenticating users, or completing transactions, rather than a single provider to rule them all.
- APIs: Microservices interact with a website through APIs, or application programming interfaces. This allows developers to change the site’s architecture without impacting the applications that use APIs and easily offer those APIs to their customers.
- Cloud-Native: A cloud-based environment hosts websites and applications via the Internet, ensuring scalability and performance. Modern cloud technology like Kubernetes, containers, and virtual machines keep applications consistent while meeting the demands of your users.
Are You Already MACHing?
Even if the term MACH is new to you, chances are good that you’re already doing some version of it. Here are some telltale signs:
- You have one vendor for single sign-on (SSO), one vendor to capture payment information, another to handle email payment confirmations, and so on.
- You use APIs to integrate with tech solutions like Hubspot, Salesforce, PayPal, and more.
- Your website — or any website feature or application — is deployed within a cloud environment.
- Your website’s front end is managed by a different vendor than its back end.
If you’re doing any of the above, you’re MACHing. But the magic of MACH is in bringing them all together, and there are plenty of reasons why companies are taking the leap.
5 Benefits of MACH Architecture
If you make the transition to MACH, you can expect:
- Choice: Organizations that use MACH don’t have to settle for one provider that’s “good enough” for the countless services websites need. Instead, they can choose the best vendor for the job. For example, when Oomph worked with One Percent for America to build a platform offering low-interest loans to immigrants pursuing citizenship, that meant leveraging the Salesforce CRM for loan approvals, while choosing “Click and Pledge” for donations and credit card transactions.
- Flexibility: MACH architecture’s modular nature allows you to select and integrate individual components more easily and seamlessly update or replace those components. Our client Leica, for example, was able to update its order fulfillment application with minimal impact to the rest of its Drupal site.
- Performance: Headless applications often run faster and are easier to test, so you can deploy knowing you’ve created an optimal user experience. For example, we used a decoupled architecture for our client Wingspans to create a stable, flexible, and scalable site with lightning-fast performance for its audience of young career-seekers.
- Security: Breaches are generally limited to individual features or components, keeping your entire system more secure.
- Future-Proofing: A MACH system scales easily because each service is individually configured, making it easier to keep up with technologies and trends and avoid becoming out-of-date.
5 Drawbacks of MACH Architecture
As beneficial as MACH architecture can be, making the switch isn’t always smooth sailing. Before deciding to adopt MACH, consider these potential pitfalls.
- Complexity: With MACH architecture, you’ll have more vendors — sometimes a lot more — than if you run everything on one enterprise system. That’s more relationships to manage and more training needed for your employees, which can complicate development, testing, deployment, and overall system understanding.
- Challenges With Data Parity: Following data and transactions across multiple microservices can be tricky. You may encounter synchronization issues as you get your system dialed in, which can frustrate your customers and the team maintaining your website.
- Security: You read that right — security is a potential pro and a con with MACH, depending on your risk tolerance. While your whole site is less likely to go down with MACH, working with more vendors leaves you more vulnerable to breaches for specific services.
- Technological Mishaps: As you explore new solutions for specific services, you’ll often start to use newer and less proven technologies. While some solutions will be a home run, you may also have a few misses.
- Complicated Pricing: Instead of paying one price tag for an enterprise system, MACH means buying multiple subscriptions that can fluctuate more in price. This, coupled with the increased overhead of operating a MACH-based website, can burden your budget.
Is MACH Architecture Right for You?
In our experience, most brands could benefit from at least a little bit of MACH. Some of our clients are taking a MACH-lite approach with a few services or apps, while others have adopted a more comprehensive MACH architecture.
Whether MACH is the right move for you depends on your:
- Platform Size and Complexity: Smaller brands with tight budgets and simple websites may not need a full-on MACH approach. But if you’re managing content across multiple sites and apps, managing a high volume of communications and transactions, and need to iterate quickly to keep up with rapid growth, MACH is often the way to go.
- Level of Security: If you’re in a highly regulated industry and need things locked down, you may be better off with a single enterprise system than a multi-vendor MACH solution.
- ROI Needs: If it’s time to replace your system anyway, or you’re struggling with internal costs and the diminishing value of your current setup, it may be time to consider MACH.
- Organizational Structure: If different teams are responsible for distinct business functions, MACH may be a good fit.
How To Implement MACH Architecture
If any of the above scenarios apply to your organization, you’re probably anxious to give MACH a go. But a solid MACH architecture doesn’t happen overnight. We recommend starting with a technology audit: a systematic, data-driven review of your current system and its limitations.
We recently partnered with career platform Wingspans to modernize its website. Below is an example of the audit and the output: a seamless and responsive MACH architecture.
- Surveys/Questionnaires: We started with some simple questions about Wingspan’s website, including what was working, what wasn’t, and the team’s reasons for updating. They shared that they wanted to offer their users a more modern experience.
- Stakeholder Interviews: We used insights from the surveys to spark more in-depth discussions with team members close to the website. Through conversation, we uncovered that website performance and speed were their users’ primary pain points.
- Systems Access and Audit: Then, we took a peek under the hood. Wingspans had already shared its poor experiences with previous vendors and applications, so we wanted to uncover simpler ways to improve site speed and performance.
- Organizational Structure: Understanding how the organization functions helps design a system to meet those needs. The Wingspans team was excited about modern technology and relatively savvy, but they also needed a system that could accommodate thousands of authenticated community members.
- Marketing Plan Review: We also wanted to understand how Wingspans would talk about their website. They sought an “app-like” experience with super-fast search, which gave us insight into how their MACH system needed to function.
- Roadmap: Wingspans had a rapid go-to-market timeline. We simplified our typical roadmap to meet that goal, knowing that MACH architecture would be easy to update down the road.
- Delivery: We recommended Wingspans deploy as a headless site (a site we later developed for them), with documentation we could hand off to their design partner.
We later deployed Wingspans.com as a headless site using the following components of MACH architecture:
- Microservices: Wingspans leverages microservices like Algolia Search for site search, Amazon AWS for email sends and static site hosting, and Stripe for managing transactions.
- APIs: Wingspans.com communicates with the above microservices through simple APIs.
- Cloud-Native: The new website uses cloud-computing services like Google Firebase, which supports user authentication and data storage.
- Headless: Gatsby powers the front-end design, while Cosmic JS is the back-end content management system (CMS).
Let’s Talk MACH
As MACH evolves, the conversation around it will, too. Wondering which components may revolutionize your site and which to skip (for now)? Get in touch to set up your own technology audit.
We are thrilled to share that our client, Lifespan, has been named to the Nielsen Norman Group 2023 list of the ten best employee intranets in the world. Award winners are recognized worldwide for their leadership in defining the field of UX. NN/g is dedicated to improving the everyday experience of using technology. The company has evaluated thousands of websites and applications and consulted for leading brands in virtually every industry since 2001 to select the 10 best intranets annually.
A Collaborative Process
Lifespan collaborated with our team on strategy, stakeholder management, UX research, UI design, and development. We developed the intranet’s information architecture and prototyped and tested tablet versions of the mobile intranet. Our engineering team conducted a technical discovery and completed the full intranet development, which included the intranet’s custom features and integrations. The result was an intranet that met employees’ personal needs while building a sense of community across Lifespan’s large organization.
“It’s wonderful to see the culmination of so much research, feedback, conversation, and collaboration be recognized and placed among some of the best brands in the world,” said Oomph’s Director of Design & UX, J. Hogue. “This intranet required 18 months of employee-focused strategy, research, design, testing, and development with the latest technology, security best practices, and accessibility design. The result supports employees and positive patient outcomes across the hospital system. We are intensely proud of the tailored approach the teams used to create a digital experience that reflects Lifespan’s company culture.”
Helping to Connect a Remote Workforce
Lifespan is a digital workplace, and the intranet is the hub that connects employees to the hundreds of digital tools and resources they need to deliver health with care every day. Most of Lifespan’s 16,000+ employees use the intranet on a daily basis to complete their work tasks, find information about benefits, and/or read the latest news. The intranet routinely sees more than 1M page views each month. Physicians, nurses, allied professionals, and clinical support staff often use the intranet to access policies and job tools that are critical for patient care and often needed immediately. Administrative support staff rely on the intranet to access information and third-party tools that are critical to such business operations as purchasing, finance, materials management/supply chain operations, and facilities maintenance to name a few. For all users, the intranet is a central hub for department information, professional education and training, news and events, the staff directory, HR and payroll information, digital tools request services throughout the organization (both clinical and administrative), and remote access to email. Most importantly, the intranet provides a place where employees can learn what’s happening across the Lifespan system and at each individual affiliate location.
“The team responded to the importance of communication and connectedness and used those themes as the guiding strategy when redesigning the intranet. They made it more accessible, user-friendly, and contemporary, thanks to their vision, planning, and execution,” said Lifespan Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Jane Bruno. “Winning this award is a testament to the hard work of Lifespan’s marketing and communications and information services teams, and their collaboration with Lifespan’s digital design and development partner, Oomph.”
There’s no doubt that all of us at Oomph are extremely proud of the outcome as well and it’s even more gratifying to work side-by-side with an organization that’s so committed to improving the employee experience. After an award-winning collaboration like this, we look forward to continuing our partnership in the years to come.
More information about the 2023 winners is on the NN/g website. The winning intranets are also featured in the NN/g’s publication, Intranet Design Annual 2023: Year’s 10 Best Intranets. The publication includes a detailed case study on Lifespan’s intranet project and the vision, working methods, and management strategies underpinning its success.
Past recipients of the top 10 intranet award include BNY Mellon, Korn Ferry, The United Nations, Barclays, 3M, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Princeton University, and JetBlue.
Interested in learning more about Oomph’s award-winning work? Take a look at some of our favorite projects and see how we make a difference for clients nationwide.
The full press release can be found at: https://www.lifespan.org/news/lifespan-named-top-10-best-intranets-world-nielsen-norman-group-nng
Connecting People and Planet
NEEF’s website is the gateway that connects its audiences to a vast array of learning experiences – but its existing platform was falling short. The organization needed more visually interesting resources and content, but it also knew its legacy Drupal site couldn’t keep up.
NEEF wanted to build a more powerful platform that could seamlessly:
- Communicate its mission and showcase its impact to inspire potential funders
- Broaden its audience reach through enhanced accessibility, content, and SEO
- Be a valuable resource by providing useful and engaging content, maps, toolkits, and online courses
- Build relationships by engaging users on the front end with easy-to-use content, then seamlessly channeling that data into back-end functionality for user-based tracking
Strategy is the foundation for effective digital experiences and the intuitive designs they require. Oomph first honed in on NEEF’s key goals, then implemented a plan to meet them: leveraging existing features that work, adding critical front- and back-end capabilities, and packaging it all in an engaging, user-centric new website.
Information architecture is at the core of user experience (UX). We focused on organizing NEEF’s information to make it more accessible and appealing to its core audiences: educators, conservationists, nonprofits, and partners. Our designers then transformed that strategy into strategic wireframes and dynamic designs, all of which we developed into a custom Drupal site.
The New NEEF: User-Centered Design
A Custom Site To Fuel Connection
NEEF needed a digital platform as unique as its organization, which is why Oomph ultimately delivered a suite of custom components designed to accommodate a variety of content needs.
Engaging and thoughtful design
NEEF’s new user experience is simple and streamlined. Visual cues aid in wayfinding (all Explore pages follow the same hero structure, for example), while imagery; microinteractions, such as hover effects; and a bold color palette draw the user in. The UX also emphasizes accessibility and inclusivity; the high contrast between the font colors and the background make the website more readable for people with visual impairments, while people with different skin tones can now see themselves represented in NEEF’s new library of 100 custom icons.
From water conservation to climate change, visitors often come to the NEEF site to learn about a specific subject. We overhauled NEEF’s existing site map to include topic-based browsing, with pages that roll resources, storytelling, and NEEF’s impact into one cohesive package. Additional links in the footer also make it easier for specific audiences to find information, such as nonprofits seeking grants or teachers looking for educational materials
NPLD host resources and event locator
Oomph refreshed existing components and added new ones to support one of NEEF’s flagship programs, National Public Lands Day (NPLD). People interested in hosting an event could use the new components to easily set one up, have their own dashboard to manage, and add their event to NEEF’s event locator. Once the event has passed, it’s automatically unlisted from the locator — but archived so hosts can duplicate and relaunch the event in future years.
Protecting the Planet, One User at a Time
Oomph helped NEEF launch its beautiful, engaging, and interactive site in May 2023. Within three months, NEEF’s team had built more than 100 new landing pages using the new component library, furthering its goal to build deeper connections with its audiences.
As NEEF’s digital presence continues to grow, so will its impact — all with the new custom site as its foundation.
More than two years after Google announced the launch of its powerful new website analytics platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the final countdown to make the switch is on.
GA4 will officially replace Google’s previous analytics platform, Universal Analytics (UA), on July 1, 2023. It’s the first major analytics update from Google since 2012 — and it’s a big deal. As we discussed in a blog post last year, GA4 uses big data and machine learning to provide a next-generation approach to measurement, including:
- Unifying data across multiple websites and apps
- A new focus on events vs. sessions
- Cookieless user tracking
- More personalized and predictive analytics
At Oomph, we’ve learned a thing or two about making the transition seamless while handling GA4 migrations for our clients – including a few platform “gotchas” that are definitely better to know in advance. Before you start your migration, do yourself a favor and explore our GA4 setup guide.
Your 12-Step GA4 Migration Checklist
Step 1: Create a GA4 Analytics Property and Implement Tagging
The Gist: Launch the GA4 setup assistant to create a new GA4 property for your site or app. For sites that already have UA installed, Google is beginning to create GA4 properties automatically for them beginning in March 2023 (unless you opt out). If you’re migrating from UA, you can connect your UA property to your GA4 property to use the existing Google tracking tag on your site. For new sites, you’ll need to add the tag directly to your site or via Google Tag Manager.
The Gotcha: During property setup, Google will ask you which data streams you’d like to add (websites, apps, etc…). This is simple if you’re just tracking one site, but gets more complex for organizations with multiple properties, like educational institutions or retailers with individual locations. While UA allowed you to separate data streams by geography or line of business, GA4 handles this differently. This Google guide can help you choose the ideal configuration for your business model.
Step 2: Update Your Data Retention Settings
The Gist: GA4 lets you control how long you retain data on users and events before it’s automatically deleted from Google’s servers. For user-level data, including conversions, you can hang on to data for up to 14 months. For other event data, you have the option to retain the information for 2 months or 14 months.
The Gotcha: The data retention limits are much shorter than UA, which allowed you to keep Google-signals data for up to 26 months in some cases. The default retention setting in GA4 is 2 months for some types of data – a surprisingly short window, in our opinion – so be sure to extend it to avoid data loss.
Step 3: Initialize BigQuery
The Gist: Have a lot of data to analyze? GA4 integrates with BigQuery, Google’s cloud-based data warehouse, so you can store historical data and run analyses on massive datasets. Google walks you through the steps here.
The Gotcha: Since GA4 has tight time limits on data retention as well as data limits on reporting , skipping this step could compromise your reporting. BigQuery is a helpful workaround for storing, analyzing and visualizing large amounts of complex data.
Step 4: Configure Enhanced Measurements
The Gist: GA4 measures much more than pageviews – you can now track actions like outbound link clicks, scrolls, and engagements with YouTube videos automatically through the platform. When you set up GA4, simply check the box for any metrics you want GA4 to monitor. You can still use Google tags to customize tracking for other types of events or use Google’s Measurement Protocol for advanced tracking.
The Gotcha: If you were previously measuring events through Google tags that GA4 will now measure automatically, take the time to review which ones to keep to avoid duplicating efforts. It may be simpler to use GA4 tracking – giving you a good reason to do that Google Tag Manager cleanup you’ve been meaning to get to.
Step 5: Configure Internal and Developer Traffic Settings
The Gist: To avoid having employees or IT teams cloud your insights, set up filters for internal and developer traffic. You can create up to 10 filters per property.
The Gotcha: Setting up filters for these users is only the first step – you’ll also need to toggle the filter to “Active” for it to take effect (a step that didn’t exist in UA). Make sure to turn yours on for accurate reporting.
Step 6: Migrate Users
The Gist: If you were previously using UA, you’ll need to migrate your users and their permission settings to GA4. Google has a step-by-step guide for migrating users.
The Gotcha: Migrating users is a little more complex than just clicking a button. You’ll need to install the GA4 Migrator from Google Analytics add-on, then decide how to migrate each user from UA. You also have the option to add users manually.
Step 7: Migrate Custom Events
The Gist: Event tracking has fundamentally changed in GA4. While UA offered three default parameters for events (eventcategory, action, and eventlabel), GA4 lets you create any custom conventions you’d like. With more options at your fingertips, it’s a great opportunity to think through your overall measurement approach and which data is truly useful for your business intelligence.
When mapping UA events to GA4, look first to see if GA4 is collecting the data as an enhanced measurement, automatically collected, or recommended event. If not, you can create your own custom event using custom definitions. Google has the details for mapping events.
The Gotcha: Don’t go overboard creating custom definitions – GA4 limits you to 50 per property.
Step 8: Migrate Custom Filters to Insights
The Gist: Custom filters in UA have become Insights in GA4. The platform offers two types of insights: automated insights based on unusual changes or emerging trends, and custom insights based on conditions that matter to you. As you implement GA4, you can set up custom insights for Google to display on your Insights dashboard. Google will also email alerts upon request.
The Gotcha: Similar to custom events, GA4 limits you to 50 custom insights per property.
Step 9: Migrate Your Segments
The Gist: Segments work differently in GA4 than they do in UA. In GA4, you’ll only find segments in Explorations. The good news is you can now set up segments for events, allowing you to segment data based on user behavior as well as more traditional segments like user geography or demographics.
The Gotcha: Each Exploration has a limit of 10 segments. If you’re using a lot of segments currently in UA, you’ll likely need to create individual reports to see data for each segment. While you can also create comparisons in reports for data subsets, those are even more limited at just four comparisons per report.
Step 10: Migrate Your Audiences
The Gist: Just like UA, GA4 allows you to set up audiences to explore trends among specific user groups. To migrate your audiences from one platform to another, you’ll need to manually create each audience in GA4.
The Gotcha: You can create a maximum of 100 audiences for each GA4 property (starting to sense a theme here?). Also, keep in mind that GA4 audiences don’t apply retroactively. While Google will provide information on users in the last 30 days who meet your audience criteria — for example, visitors from California who donated more than $100 — it won’t apply the audience filter to users earlier than that.
Step 11: Migrate Goals to Conversion Events
The Gist: If you were previously tracking goals in UA, you’ll need to migrate them over to GA4, where they’re now called conversion events. GA4 has a goals migration tool that makes this process pretty simple.
The Gotcha: GA4 limits you to 30 custom conversion events per property. If you’re in e-commerce or another industry with complex marketing needs, those 30 conversion events will add up very quickly. With GA4, it will be important to review conversion events regularly and retire ones that aren’t relevant anymore, like conversions for previous campaigns.
Step 12: Migrate Alerts
The Gist: Using custom alerts in UA? As we covered in Step 8, you can now set up custom insights to keep tabs on key changes in user activity. GA4 will deliver alerts through your Insights dashboard or email, based on your preferences.
The Gotcha: This one is actually more of a bonus – GA4 will now evaluate your data hourly, so you can learn about and respond to changes more quickly.
The Future of Measurement Is Here
GA4 is already transforming how brands think about measurement and user insights – and it’s only the beginning. While Google has been tight-lipped about the GA4 roadmap, we can likely expect even more enhancements and capabilities in the not-too-distant future. The sooner you make the transition to GA4, the sooner you’ll have access to a new level of intelligence to shape your digital roadmap and business decisions.
Need a hand getting started? We’re here to help – reach out to book a chat with us.
The circular economy aims to help the environment by reducing waste, mainly by keeping goods and services in circulation for as long as possible. Unlike the traditional linear economy, in which things are produced, consumed, and then discarded, a circular economy ensures that resources are shared, repaired, reused, and recycled, over and over.
What does this have to do with your digital platform? In a nutshell: everything.
From tackling climate change to creating more resilient markets, the circular economy is a systems-level solution for global environmental and economic issues. By building digital platforms for the circular economy, your business will be better prepared for whatever the future brings.
The Circular Economy isn’t Coming. It’s Here.
With environmental challenges growing day by day, businesses all over the world are going circular. Here are a few examples:
- Target plans for 100% of its branded products to last longer, be easier to repair or recycle, and be made from materials that are regenerative, recyclable, or sustainably sourced.
- Trove’s ecommerce platform lets companies buy back and resell their own products. This extends each products’ use cycle, lowering the environmental and social cost per item.
- Renault is increasing the life of its vehicle parts by restoring old engine parts. This limits waste, prolongs the life of older cars, and reduces emissions from manufacturing.
One area where nearly every business could adopt a circular model is the creation and use of digital platforms. The process of building websites and apps, along with their use over time, consumes precious resources (both people and energy). That’s why Oomph joined 1% For the Planet earlier this year. Our membership reflects our commitment to do more collective good — and to hold ourselves accountable for our collective impact on the environment.
But, we’re not just donating profits to environmental causes. We’re helping companies build sustainable digital platforms for the circular economy.
Curious about your platform’s environmental impact? Enter your URL into this tool to get an estimate of your digital platform’s carbon footprint.
Changing Your Platform From Linear to Circular
If protecting the environment and promoting sustainability is a priority for your business, it’s time to change the way you build and operate your websites and apps. Here’s what switching to a platform for the circular economy could look like.
From a linear mindset…
When building new sites or apps, many companies fail to focus on longevity or performance. Within just a few years, their platforms become obsolete, either as a result of business changes or a desire to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies.
So, every few years, they have to start all over again — with all the associated resource costs of building a new platform and migrating content from the old one.
Platforms that aren’t built with performance in mind tend to waste a ton of energy (and money) in their daily operation. As these platforms grow in complexity and slow down in performance, one unfortunate solution is to just increase computing power. That means you need new hardware to power the computing cycles, which leads to more e-waste, more mining for metals and more pollution from manufacturing, and more electricity to power the entire supply chain.
Enter the circular economy.
…to a circular approach.
Building a platform for the circular economy is about reducing harmful impacts and wasteful resource use, and increasing the longevity of systems and components. There are three main areas you can address:
1. Design out waste and pollution from the start.
At Oomph, we begin every project with a thorough and thoughtful discovery process that gets to the heart of what we’re building, and why. By identifying what your business truly needs in a platform — today and potentially tomorrow — you’ll minimize the need to rebuild again later.
It’s also crucial to build efficiencies into your backend code. Clean, efficient code makes things load faster and run more quickly, with fewer energy cycles required per output.
Look for existing frameworks, tools, and third-party services that provide the functions you need and will continue to stay in service for years or decades to come. And, instead of building a monolith platform that has to be upgraded every few years or requires massive computing power, consider switching to a more nimble and efficient microservices architecture.
2. Keep products and services in use.
Regular maintenance and timely patching is key to prolonging the life of your platform. So is proactively looking for performance issues. Be sure to regularly test and assess your platform’s speed and efficiency, so you can address problems early on.
While we’re advocating for using products and services for as long as possible, if your platform is built on microservices, don’t be afraid to replace an existing service with a new one. Just make sure the new service provides a benefit that outweighs the resource costs of implementing it.
3. Aim to regenerate natural systems.
The term “regenerate” describes a process that mimics the cycles of nature by restoring or renewing sources of energy and materials. It might seem like the natural world is far removed from your in-house tech, but there are a number of ways that your IT choices impact the environment.
For starters, you can factor sustainability into your decisions around vendors and equipment. Look for digital hosting companies and data centers that are green or LEED-certified. Power your hardware with renewable energy sources. Ultimately, the goal is to consider not just how to reduce your platform’s impact on the environment, but how you can create a net-positive effect by doing better with less.
Get Ready for the Future
We’ve long seen that the ways in which businesses and societies use resources can transform local and global communities. And we know that environmental quality is inextricably linked to human wellbeing and prosperity. The circular economy, then, provides a way to improve our future readiness.
Companies that invest in sustainability generally experience better resilience, improved operational performance, and longer-lasting growth. They’re also better suited to meet the new business landscape, as governments incentivize sustainable activities, customers prefer sustainable products, and employees demand sustainable leadership.
Interested in exploring how you can join the new circular economy with your digital platforms? We’d love to help you explore your options, just contact us.
In our previous post we broadly discussed the mindset of composable business. While “composable” can be a long term company-wide strategy for the future, companies shouldn’t overlook smaller-scale opportunities that exist at every level to introduce more flexibility, longevity, and reduce costs of technology investments.
For maximum ROI, think big, then start small
Many organizations are daunted by the concept of shifting a legacy application or monolith to a microservices architecture. This is exacerbated when an application is nearing end of life.
Don’t discount the fact that a move to a microservices architecture can be done progressively over time, unlike the replatform of a monolith which is a huge investment in both time and money that may not be realized for years until the new application is ready to deploy.
A progressive approach allows organizations to:
- Move faster and allow for adjustments as needed
- Begin realizing returns on investments faster
- Reduce risk by making smaller investments and deployments
- Ease budgeting process by funding an overhaul in stages
- Improve quality by minimizing the scope of tests
- Save money on initial investment and maintenance where services are centralized
- Benefit from longevity of a component-based system
Prioritizing the approach by aligning technical architecture with business objectives
As with any application development initiative, aligning business objectives with technology decisions is essential. Unlike replatforming a monolith, however, prioritizing and planning the order of development and deployments is crucial to the success of the initiative.
Start with clearly defining your application with a requirements and feature matrix. Then evaluate each using three lenses to see priorities begin to emerge:
- With a current state lens, evaluate each item. Is it broken? Is it costly to maintain? Is it leveraged by multiple business units or external applications?
- Then with a future state lens, evaluate each item. Could it be significantly improved? Could it be leveraged by other business units? Could it be leveraged outside the organization (partners, etc…)? Could it be leveraged in other applications, devices, or locations?
- Lastly, evaluate the emerging priority items with a cost and effort lense. What is the level of effort to develop the feature as a service? What is the likely duration of the effort?
Key considerations when planning a progressive approach
Planning is critical to any successful application development initiative, and architecting a microservices based architecture is no different. Be sure to consider the following key items as part of your planning exercises:
- Remember that rearchitecting a monolith feature as a service can open the door to new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It is helpful to ask “If this feature was a stand alone service, we could __”
- Be careful of designing services that are too big in scope. Work diligently to break down the application into the smallest possible parts, even if it is later determined that some should be grouped together
- Keep security front of mind. Where a monolith may have allowed for a straightforward security management policy with everything under one roof, a services architecture provides the opportunity for a more customized security policy, and the need to define how separate services are allowed to communicate with each other and the outside world
A microservices architecture is an approach that can help organizations move faster, be more flexible and agile, and reduce costs on development and maintenance of software applications. By taking a progressive approach when architecting a monolith application, businesses can move quickly, reduce risk, improve quality, and reduce costs.
If you’re interested in introducing composability to your organization, we’d love to help! Contact us today to talk about your options.
Many organizations today, large and small, have a digital asset problem. Companies are amassing huge libraries of images, videos, audio recordings, documents, and other files — while relying on shared folders and email to move them around the organization. As asset libraries explode, digital asset management (DAM) is crucial for keeping things accessible and up to date, so teams can spend more time getting work done and less time hunting for files.
First Things First: DAM isn’t Dropbox
Some folks still equate DAM with basic digital storage solutions, like Dropbox or Google Drive. While those are great for simple sharing needs, they’re essentially just file cabinets in the cloud.
DAM technology is purpose-built to optimize the way you store, maintain, and distribute digital assets. A DAM platform not only streamlines day-to-day content work; it also systematizes the processes and guidelines that govern content quality and use.
Today’s DAMs have sophisticated functionality that offers a host of benefits, including:
- Providing efficient access for internal and external teams
- Streamlining workflows for sharing drafts and getting approvals
- Serving images in multiple sizes and formats, reducing duplication
- Enabling AI-powered categorization, tagging, and license tracking
- Preventing versioning and legal issues around asset use
Is it time for your business to invest in a DAM? Let’s see if you recognize the pain points below:
The 5 Signs You Need a DAM
There are some things you can’t afford not to invest in if they significantly impact your team’s creativity and productivity and your business’s bottom line. Here are some of the most common signs it’s time to invest in a DAM:
It takes more than a few seconds to find what you need.
As your digital asset library grows, it’s harder to keep sifting through it all to find things — especially if you’re deciphering other people’s folder systems. If you don’t know the exact name of an asset or the folder it’s in, you’re often looking for a needle in a haystack.
Using a DAM, you can tag assets with identifying attributes (titles, keywords, etc.) and then quickly search the entire database for the ones that meet your criteria. DAMs also offer AI- and machine-learning–based tagging, which automatically adds tags based on the content of an image or document. Voila! A searchable database with less manual labor.
You have multiple versions of documents — in multiple places.
Many of our clients, including universities, healthcare systems, libraries, and nonprofits, have large collections of policy documents. These files often live on public websites, intranets, and elsewhere, with the intent that staff can pull them up as needed.
Problem is, if there’s a policy change, you need to be sure that anywhere a document is accessed, it’s the most current version. And you can’t just delete old files on a website, because any previous links to them will go up in smoke.
DAMs are excellent at managing document updates and variations, making it easy to find and replace old versions. They can also perform in-place file swaps without breaking the connections to the pieces of content that refer to a particular file.
You’re still managing assets by email.
With multiple team members or departments relying on the same pool of digital assets for a variety of use cases, some poor souls will spend hours every day answering email requests, managing edits, and transferring files. The more assets and channels you’re dealing with, the more unwieldy this gets.
DAMs facilitate collaboration by providing a single, centralized platform where team members can assign tasks, track changes, and configure permissions and approval processes. As a result, content creators know they’re using the most up-to-date, fully approved assets.
Your website doubles as a dump bin.
If your website is the source of assets for your entire organization, it can be a roadblock for other departments that need to use those assets in other places. They need to know how to find assets, download copies, and obtain sizes or formats that differ from the web-based versions… and there may or may not be a web team to assist.
What’s more, some web hosting providers offer limited storage space. If you have a large and growing digital library, you’ll hit those limits in no time.
A DAM provides a high-capacity, centralized location where staff can easily access current, approved digital assets in various sizes and formats.
You’re duplicating assets you already have.
How many times have you had different teams purchase assets like stock photography and audio tracks, when they could have shared the files instead? Or, maybe your storage folders are overrun with duplicates. Instead of relying on teams to communicate whenever they create or use an asset, you could simplify things with a DAM.
Storing and tagging all your assets, in various sizes and formats, in a DAM enables your teams to:
- Make the most of the assets you own
- Avoid creating unnecessary copies
- Access optimized versions for different applications
- Keep track of how many times each asset is used
When Should You Implement a DAM?
You can implement a DAM whether you have an existing website or you’re building a new one. DAM technology easily complements platform builds or redesigns, helping to make websites and intranets even more powerful. Organizing all of your assets in a DAM before launching a web project also makes it easier to migrate them to your new platform and helps ensure that nothing gets lost.
Plus, we’ve seen companies cling to old websites when too many departments are still using assets that are hosted on the site. Moving your assets out of your website and into a DAM frees you up to move on.
If you’re curious about your options for a DAM platform, there are a number of solutions on the market. Our partner Acquia offers an excellent DAM platform with an impressive range of functions for organizing, accessing, publishing, and repurposing assets, automating manual processes, and monitoring content metrics.
Other candidates to consider include Adobe Experience Manager Assets, Bynder, PicturePark, Canto, Cloudinary, Brandfolder, and MediaValet.
Given the number of DAMs on the market, choosing the right solution is a process. We’re happy to share our experience in DAM use and implementation, to help you find the best one for your needs. Just get in touch with any questions you have.
With all the hype swirling around technology buzzwords like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it can be hard to understand their real utility for your business. But as practical applications continue to emerge, more business leaders are starting to see adopting blockchain as a business priority (PDF) — and, potentially, a competitive advantage.
To help you make sense of it, we’ve compiled a high-level look at blockchain technology and its sister concept, Web3, along with some ideas for how this technology could be relevant to your business right now.
First, What are Blockchain & Web3?
“Web3” has become a catch-all term that refers to a decentralized online ecosystem where platforms and apps are owned not by a central gatekeeper, but by the users who help develop and maintain those services. To many, Web3 is the next iteration of the internet.
The first version of the internet, Web 1.0, was largely made of individual, static web pages created by the few people who understood the technology. We are currently in the midst of Web 2.0, which provides a platform with tools for non-technical people to create their own content, essentially democratizing authorship. With it, we saw the rise of social media platforms, shopping giants like Amazon, and work tools like Office and Google Suite. This also meant that much of our individual data — our posts, reviews, and photos — have been centralized into these behemoth systems.
The promise of Web3 is the opposite approach: decentralized content, with much greater control over what you create and in what ways your data is associated with your activity.
Web3 achieves its goals of decentralization via blockchain, a digital ledger that exists only on the internet. This ledger uses a complex cryptography system to create encrypted “blocks” of data, ensuring that all the transactions that are written to it are verifiable and unalterable.
This ledger is open to the world to access. It’s not hosted on a single server owned by one company, but instead across a vast network of computers. The technology keeps all transactions up to date everywhere at once, and maintenance fees are paid by those that access the data.
What makes the blockchain so valuable across sectors is that it helps reduce risk, eliminates fraud, and provides scalable transparency. As a chronological, decentralized, single source of truth, the blockchain creates trust in data. As an example, at its most basic level, this open ledger makes it possible for me to verify that you conducted a certain transaction on a certain date (like a digital receipt). But it can do much more than that.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can put the blockchain to use.
What Can Blockchain Do for Healthcare?
We’ve already started to see innovation around Web3 in the healthcare space, much of it focused on patient health records. Given the increasing fragmentation of healthcare, the strict privacy regulations in this space, and the high risk of data breaches with current systems, the healthcare industry is a good candidate for blockchain use and the security benefits of decentralization.
Use case: patient records
To imagine how the blockchain can change healthcare, let’s consider a typical patient who sees their general practitioner and requests a visit with a specialist. To ensure continuity of care, the patient’s health records must be sent from the primary doctor to the specialist’s office quickly and securely. Since most patients don’t have copies of all their medical records, they’re relying on their doctor’s office to transfer this sensitive data.
With the blockchain, patients can own their own medical records and control who has access to them. Doctors can add detailed entries to the digital ledger, which can be shared with other medical professionals as needed. Patients can also revoke access to anyone at any time.
Improving access to patient information across providers is crucial for the healthcare industry, given that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Current medications and their side effects could be part of the blockchain ledger, to help reduce complications. In addition, smart contracts that automatically seek out potential conflicts between medications could be added to medical records.
This example barely scratches the surface; luckily, there are many companies already in this space, figuring out how to store patient data via blockchain in accordance with current regulations.
What Can Blockchain Do for Education?
You may not immediately think of educational applications as benefitting from blockchain technology. But paper records are one area that’s ripe for disruption, since moving to a digital format would make communication between institutions much more efficient. Here’s an example.
Use case: student transcripts
Having transcripts stored on a blockchain would make it easier for students to transfer their educational history from one school to another. It would also ensure that educational institutions, or even employers, could easily verify that history. In fact, MIT has been issuing digital, blockchain-stored diplomas since 2017.
Beyond transcripts, the Open Badge Passport issues digital badges that recognize learning, skills, and achievements by scraping information off the blockchain about individuals’ extracurricular activities. This allows students and others to demonstrate soft-skill talents that are valuable to have but not typically recorded by a degree.
What Can Blockchain Do for Ecommerce?
Product registration has long been a way for companies to gain access to buyers’ contact info (more than a way for customers to protect their investment, as advertised). Using blockchain, product registries can serve a greater range of purposes, offering value to both consumers and companies. That’s because when it comes to provenance — the place of origin or earliest known history of something — a blockchain is a perfect public record-keeping tool.
Use case: product registries
For high-ticket items that can be sold on the internet, like jewelry, designer clothing, or rare books, a blockchain entry can be used to prove, and verifiably transfer, an item’s ownership. This user history could not only help bolster the secondary market for verified products, it also reduces the ability of counterfeiters to pass knock-off products as the real thing.
Imagine this approach for high-ticket items like autos. Supporting vehicle transactions that take place online or offline, a blockchain could store vehicle maintenance and crash reports. This trove of information could boost the resale value of a vehicle, because potential buyers can access the vehicle’s entire maintenance history. If the data is connected to onboard sensors, it might even include engine efficiency and tire wear.
What Can Blockchain Do for Non-Profits?
In this example, we combine blockchain, NFTs, and smart contracts to create a unique approach to a fundraising classic. Quick primer on NFTs: blockchain-based tokens that represent digital media like music, art, videos, etc… and can verify authenticity, past history, and sole ownership of a digital item. Smart contracts are preset functions that fire on a blockchain when specific conditions are met.
Use case: silent auctions with NFTs
Non-profits could take a new approach to fundraising with NFTs. Let’s say an artist creates (as a donation) a series of NFTs that are auctioned off to the highest bidder, with ownership of the artwork transferred via a blockchain. Or museums could sell digital representations of their collection, potentially fueling new derivative artwork. Artists could remix classic works into new art, providing additional promotional and fundraising opportunities. The classic silent auction gets upgraded.
But let’s take it a step further. Smart contracts on those NFTs could perpetually pay a royalty back to the original artist or the organization as a portion of any future sales of the artwork. That means one year’s fundraiser could potentially reap monetary benefits for many years to come. The contract could take any form negotiated by the artist and non-profit — future royalties from ownership transfer pay the artist while the initial artwork was a donation, or the artist and organization split future proceeds, etc…
Blockchain can not only help overcome challenges such as consumer privacy concerns and sensitive data management, it can also help organizations seize new opportunities for growth.
What Can Blockchain Do for You?
While blockchain technology was first conceived as a mechanism to support Bitcoin, today it offers tons of uses across industry sectors. This kind of advanced technology may seem only accessible to companies that can afford expensive developers, but the cost to incorporate blockchain technology into many business operations is often less than you think. Plus, new vendors are emerging all the time to provide blockchain technology for a broad range of applications.
Blockchain can not only help overcome challenges such as consumer privacy concerns and sensitive data management, it can also help organizations seize new opportunities for growth. Think about your company’s biggest challenge or goal, and there might be a way blockchain technology can address it.
Interested in looking at ways to incorporate blockchain into your company’s digital assets? Let’s talk.
Never Stopping, Always Evolving
Leica Geosystems was founded on cutting-edge technology and continues to push the envelope with their revolutionary products. Leica Geosystems was founded by Heinrich Wild and made its first rangefinder in 1921. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Leica Geosystems is the leading manufacturer of precision laser technology used for measurements in architecture, construction, historic preservation, and DIY home remodeling projects.
Oomph and Leica collaborated on an initial project in 2014 and have completed multiple projects since. We transitioned the site into a brand new codebase with Drupal 8. With this conversion, Oomph smoothed out the Leica team’s pain points related to a multisite architecture. We created a tightly integrated single site that can still serve multiple countries, languages, and currencies.
Feeling the Pain-points with Multisite
Leica’s e-commerce store is active in multiple countries and languages. Managing content in a Drupal multisite environment meant managing multiple sites. Product, content, and price changes were difficult. It was Oomph’s challenge to make content and product management easier for the Leica team as well as support the ability to create new country sites on demand. Leica’s new e-commerce site needed to support:
MULTIPLE COUNTRIES AND A GLOBAL OPTION
MANY 3RD-PARTY INTEGRATIONS
The pain points of the previous Multisite architecture were that each country was a silo:
- No Single Sign On (SSO): Multiple admin log-ins to remember
- Repetitive updates: Running Drupal’s update script on every site and testing was a lengthy process
- Multiple stores: Multiple product lists, product features, and prices
- Multiple sites to translate: each site was sent individually to be translated into one language
Creating a Singularity with Drupal 8, Domain Access, & Drupal Commerce
A move to Drupal 8 in combination with some smart choices in module support and customization simplified many aspects of the Leica team’s workflow, including:
- Configuration management: Drupal 8’s introduction of configuration management in core means that point-and-click admin configuration can get exported from one environment and imported into another, syncing multiple environments and saving configuration in our code repository
- One Database to Rule Them All: Admins have a single site to log into and do their work, and developers have one site to update, patch, and configure
- One Commerce Install, Multiple stores: There is one Drupal Commerce 2.x install with multiple stores with one set of products. Each product has the ability to be assigned to multiple stores, and price lists per country control product pricing
- One Page in Multiple Countries and Multiple Languages: The new single site model gives a piece of content one place to live, while authors can control which countries the content is available and the same content is translated into all the languages available once.
- Future proof: With a smooth upgrade path into Drupal 9 in 2020, the Drupal 8 site gives Leica more longevity in the Drupal ecosystem
From more detailed information about how Oomph leveraged the Domain Access, Country Path, Commerce, and Commerce Store Domain modules, the project’s lead developer, John Picozzi, conducted a talk for Drupal GovCon all about it.
LEARN VS. SHOP
Supporting Visitor Intention with Two Different Modes
While the technical challenges were being worked out, the user experience and design had to reflect a cutting-edge company. With the launch of their revolutionary product, the BLK 360, in 2018, Leica positioned itself as the Apple of the geospatial measurement community — sleek, cool, cutting-edge and easy to use. While many companies want to look as good as Apple, few of them actually have the content and product to back it up.
The navigation for the site went through many rounds of feedback and testing before deciding on something radically simple — Learn or Shop. A customer on the website is either in an exploratory state of mind — browsing, comparing, reviewing pricing and specifications — or they are ready to buy. We made it very clear which part of the website was for which.
This allowed us to talk directly to the customer in two very different ways. On the Learn side, the pages educate and convince. They give the customer information about the product, reviews, articles, sample data files, and the like. The content is big, sleek, and leverages video and other embedded content, like VR, to educate.
On the Shop side the pages are unapologetically transactional. Give the visitor the right information to support a purchase, clearly deliver specs and options like software and warranties, without any marketing. We could assume the customer was here to purchase, not to be convinced, so the page content could concentrate on order completion. The entire checkout process was simplified as much as possible to reduce friction. Buying habits and patterns of their user base over the past few site iterations were studied to inform our choices about where to simplify and where to offer options.
More Nimble Together
The willingness of the Drupal community to support the needs of this project cannot be overlooked, either. Oomph has been able to leverage our team’s commitment to open source contributions to get other developers to add features to the modules they support. Without the give and take of the community and our commitment to give back, many modifications and customizations for this project would have been much more difficult. The team at Centarro, maintainers of the Commerce module, were fantastic to work with and we thank them.
We look forward to continuing to support Leica Geosystems and their product line worldwide. With a smooth upgrade path to Drupal 9 in 2020, the site is ready for the next big upgrade.
When companies merge, successfully combining digital assets like websites, intranets, apps, and other platforms takes more than just squishing things together. Poorly merged digital properties can diminish brand equity, squander years of SEO value, and even drive away customers or employees — ultimately tanking the value the merger was supposed to create.
The challenge is that you’re bringing together two end-user communities with different experiences and expectations. And it’s easy to assume the bigger or faster-growing company has the better digital platform, even when there’s a lot you could learn from the smaller company’s practices.
That’s why we recommend a collaborative, UX-centered approach to combining digital properties, to ensure you’re leveraging the best of both worlds. In this article, we’ll share a sample of UX analyses that can help set up a new combined platform for success.
First, let’s talk about leveraging the right mindset.
A Different Approach
Typically, when combining digital platforms, companies tend to take a top-down approach, meaning there’s a hierarchy of decision-making based on which platform is believed to be better. But the calculus can change a lot when those decisions are made from the end users’ point of view instead.
From a practical standpoint, these companies are usually trying to create efficiencies and add new competencies while carefully messaging the benefits of the merger for their customers. They focus on things like branding, SEO, and consolidating social media — all of which are important, and none of which truly shapes the platform user’s experience.
To be fair, before the merger, both companies were likely focused on trying to create the best possible user experience for their customers. Now that they’re joining forces, each brings a unique set of learnings and techniques to the table. Which begs the question: what if your new partner handles some aspects of UX better than you?
Working collaboratively through in-depth Acquisition Analysis gives you an opportunity to extract the best from all digital properties, as either company’s platforms may have features, functionality, or content that does a better job of meeting business goals. How do you know which elements will be more successful? By auditing both platforms with tools like the ones we’ll talk about next.
When merging, don’t assume the bigger company should swallow the smaller and all its digital assets. There might be many things that the smaller company is doing better.
Conducting UX Audits
To preserve SEO value and cull the best-performing content for the new platform, many companies conduct content and SEO audits, often using free or paid tools. These usually involve flagging duplicate content, comparing performance metrics, and using R.O.T. (redundant/outdated/trivial) analyses.
What many organizations miss, however, is the opportunity to conduct UX and customer audits while directly comparing digital platforms. These can provide invaluable insights about the mental models and behaviors of users.
At a minimum, we recommend comparing both platforms using Nielsen Norman Group’s 10 usability heuristics. Setting the standard for user interface design for almost three decades, these guidelines give you a great baseline for identifying which parts of each platform are the most user-friendly. You can also compare heatmaps and scrollmaps to assess which platform does a better job of engaging users in ways that matter to your business goals.
Here are some other examples of UX analyses we conduct for clients when merging digital platforms:
Five second test
With existing customers or representatives of your target audience, ask users to view a page for five seconds and then answer a few questions about it. You’re looking for gut feelings here, as first impressions can tell you a lot about a page’s effectiveness.
Questions might include:
- What does the site tell you about the company’s personality?
- What’s something you think you could do on that website?
- Did anything stand out as new or surprising to you?
This test should be done for multiple pages on a website, not just the homepage. It’s especially valuable for product or service pages, where you can assess whether specific features are easily visible and accessible.
Customer interview comparison
For this assessment, enlist 5 to 10 customers for each business. Have the customers of Company A use Company B’s platform and vice versa, asking them to explain the value each company offers. You can also ask users what’s missing when they use the other company’s website. What’s different and better (or worse) than before? The answers can help you determine which brand and functional elements are essential to the user experience for each platform.
This test can also provide insights about the impact of elements you may not have previously considered, like the quality of photography or the order in which information is presented. These elements can set expectations and affect how people use the platform, all of which contributes to building users’ trust.
For a more in-depth analysis of user engagement and preferences, try gathering a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.
Site map analysis
Given that the merging companies are likely in the same or similar industries, there will probably be overlap between the site maps for each company’s website. But there will also be elements that are unique to each site. To successfully blend the information architecture of both properties, you’ll need to determine which elements work best for your target audience.
In addition to comparing analytics for the different websites to see which elements are most effective, here are a few other research methods we recommend:
Looking at other websites in your industry, examine their site structures and the language they use (e.g. “Find a doctor” vs. “Find a provider”). This reflects visitors’ expectations of what information they’ll get and where they can find it. You can also identify areas where you should deviate from the norm, including language that’s more authentic and unique to your brand.
Card sorting helps you understand how to structure content in a way that makes sense to your users, so they can find what they’re looking for. Participants group labeled notecards according to criteria they would naturally use. For example, if you have a car rental site, you could ask users to organize different vehicle models into groups that make sense to them. While your company might use terms like “family car” or “executive sedan,” your customers might have completely different perceptions.
Tree testing helps you evaluate a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based solely on the menu structure and terminology. Using an online interface (Treejack is a popular one) that displays only navigation links without layout or design, users are asked to complete a series of 10–15 tasks. This can show you how easy it is for site visitors to find and use information. This test is often used after card sorting sessions to confirm that the findings from the card sorting exercise are correct.
Use Information, Not Intuition
Like we said, just because a larger company acquires a smaller one doesn’t mean its digital properties have nothing to learn from the other’s. Better practices could exist in either place, and it would be a shame to lose any unique value the smaller company’s platform might offer.
With so many robust tools available for UX analysis, there’s no reason not to gather the crucial data that will help you decide which features of each platform will best achieve your business goals. When combining digital properties, the “1 + 1 = 3” trope only works if you truly glean the best of both worlds.
Need help laying the groundwork for merging separate digital platforms? Our strategic UX experts can craft a set of research exercises to help your team make the best possible decisions. Contact us today to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
Completed coursework and assessments lead students to a point of certification resulting in a printable Certificate of Completion.
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.
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.