Legacy.com: Technical Product Leadership and Architecture
Legacy.com: Technical Product Leadership and Architecture
Legacy.com, a quantcast top 50 site, was looking for a team to recommend and scope a new platform built in Node and React. They wanted a team that could work with React while pairing a backend system that could handle the demands of the Legacy.com editorial team. Facet mapped requirements for delivery, onboarded a Drupal agency, and managed delivery within a 6 month, hard deadline.
Will this feature deliver more value/revenue to Legacy.com?
We always ask, "Will this feature deliver more value or revenue?”. Many enterprise organizations struggle with feature prioritization based on potential value. Our solutions architect worked with Legacy.com's product managers to introduce a value-driven process to development prioritization. Facet helped to determine costs of potential feature development, review proposed implementation with stakeholders, and set development priority to ensure Legacy.com launched new features that delivered value to both users and stakeholders.
Delivering Value with Agile Discovery
In order to ensure ongoing delivery of valuable product features for Legacy.com, our team hosted discovery workshops and backlog planning sessions with key stakeholders on the News editorial & content publishing product team on a rolling basis. These agile discovery workshops consistently allow both developers and stakeholders to gain a bird’s eye view of future product development, and the desired end-user experience. By leveraging persona story mapping and user story mapping, the roadmap for Drupal and front-end feature development are always focused on key areas of value. We dentify the areas of high-value for the end-user, and consistently deliver value for Legacy.com by calling out highly-engaging features or opportunities. In turn our story maps drive more page views, ad revenue, and most importantly, value into visitor experiences.
Drupal Agency Selection and Product Ownership
After executing the discovery, Facet assisted Legacy.com in selecting a Drupal agency to deliver within their timeline and under budget. When Axelerant won the bid, Facet’s role evolved into one of a technical product owner: spanning the two delivery teams across 4 time zones to ensure value-driven development was achieved for each sprint while coordinating releases.
Conscious Drupal Decoupling
Legacy.com had alrady selected Drupal based on two key factors: 1) the maturity of the editorial tools and open source community, and 2) Legacy.com’s need to “own the data”—therefore third-party hosted content management services were out. As one of the most trafficked content publishing sites in the world, it made the most sense to pursue a decoupled architecture that would support Legacy’s need to modernize their application architecture with services.
With almost 2,000 newspaper affiliates, Legacy.com serves a large portion of traffic for landing pages and obituaries on behalf of these partners. In order to appropriately unify the online experience, universal navigation header and footer menus were built in React, deployed on .NET, and powered by Drupal! The menus system was architected to allow for per-affiliate personalization of menu links, and engineered to further personalize links based on specific content parameters to drive conversions.
Dependency & Release Management
Since the Legacy.com editorial platform was developed as a decoupled or “headless” Drupal system, dependency management required extra care. Release management required management of features across multiple technologies and teams, the timing of application releases had a large monetary impact, so we worked to decouple the dependencies across each release with appropriate API versioning, content staging and deployment, and other Drupal deployment best practices. Our goal was to prioritize quality assurance and load testing at accelerated rates outside of a typical release cycle, as Drupal content always had to be in place before the Node / React platform could consume the API updates.
On-Shore Drupal Development Support
While Legacy.com chose an offshore firm to provide development at scale, Legacy.com still needed an on-shore resource to manage deployments, communicate issues, and triage bugs. As both a surrogate product owner and an expert Drupal resource, Facet provided a blend of expertise as a technical lead when fast-paced decisions were critical. As a release gatekeeper, we ensured features were appropriately bundled into the correct releases as QA resources, features prioritization, and release dependency were often in constant churn.
Drupal Admin Support
As Drupal experts, we also served as support to Legacy.com’s editorial users. By providing technical support for Legacy.com internal users and stakeholders, we assisted with productivity and unblocking of Legacy.com workflows. As stakeholders submitted new feature requests and bugs, we gained a first-hand account of users needs and were able to triage and groom any bugs or missing functionality quickly without waiting for assistance from the product team.
Presentation Layer and Conscious Coupling
In order to better leverage the power of Drupal’s community contributed features, we undertook architecture choices that require a certain level of coupling. The reasons are simple: Drupal is built to serve content, and Drupal infrastructure features (such as URL paths, redirects, panelized layouts, metatags, and tokens) can and should be leveraged by the front-end application. Making decisions to leverage Drupal-specific solutions comes at the expense of understanding the architectural dependencies we place upon the web platforms consuming our APIs. By making sure both the web application engineers and the Drupal engineers understand which layer the logic resides in, we could make conscious trade-offs between available but repurposed Drupal infrastructure, and custom but expensive front-end web application infrastructure.
Editorial control of page layout was a major requirement that determined much of our solutions architecture. In order to expose layout options in a manner conducive to revisioning in a RESTful format—Axelerant developed RESTful Panels, a lightweight ctools plugin which exposes the panel content and configuration in one endpoint.
With the development of RESTful Panels, Legacy.com was able to leverage panelized nodes as templates for landing pages, each serving data within a specific context based on internal or external taxonomies. Most notably, the homepage and editorial category pages used specific RESTful Panels nodes to serve metadata, and pass parameters to additional endpoints served within the nested pane payloads to populate the content layout.
Path Management & Redirects
Our solutions architecture required URL paths that were appropriately optimized for SEO and easily configurable. In order to deliver this, we architected a single API resource which routes requests to content-specific resources based on the URL path. With consolidated content resources in a single endpoint, we were also able to control redirects via this resource. 301s, 302s, and 404s are all served in the header so that the application can redirect the user to the correct path. By creating this conscious coupling of content with Drupal’s robust Pathauto and Redirect system — we could leverage the strong SEO tools within the Drupal community to deliver functional value to the application. Delivering this path management and redirect system was critical to the successful migration of site content.