Mmmm… love that new website smell!
It's been nearly 10 years since we launched our first company website at lullabot.com. During that time, we've done five full redesigns of the site. The company has grown from two people to 62. We've expanded from a small Drupal consulting and education company to a full-service agency with a complete Design team, dedicated front-end developers, and of course, the expert Drupal back-end development which has always been our foundation.
As we've grown, our site design has reflected our focus and skills. The first site that Matt and I put together back in 2005 was intentionally sparse – not exactly beautiful, but functional and simple to maintain for just 2 or 3 people. As we hired talented designers and skilled front-end developers, site redesigns became more complex. In 2010, we split our Drupal education services into Drupalize.Me and the main focus of lullabot.com became our client services work, showcasing our design and development projects and sharing insights from our team.
Revving up the new Lullabot.com
The newest iteration of Lullabot.com is our most ambitious to date. As with most of our client engagements, the project started with research. Our Design team interviewed existing and potential clients, site visitors, and the Lullabot team to understand how people were using our site – what they wanted to get out of it, and why they visited. Our team distilled all they'd learned into goals and early wireframes for the site. They then worked with our Development staff to try to come up with the most flexible way of achieving these goals so that we could have full control of the site in ways that Drupal often doesn't afford. They wanted full
</html> blue-sky design of any arbitrary page on the site without losing Drupal's amazing content management capabilities.
The technical team settled on a decoupled, isomorphic approach using Facebook's React, Node.js, CouchDB (a noSQL database) and Drupal as the backend CMS.
Content management is what Drupal does best, and this happens through a purpose-built subsite where the Lullabot team can login and post articles, podcasts, and manage their bios. Drupal pushes content into CouchDB, which exposes a REST API for React to consume. React is an isomorphic library (its code can run both in the server and the client), which means that when a visitor first visits the site, they receive the html of the entire page. Then, the rest of the navigation happens client-side, updating just the parts of the page which are different from the current one. Furthermore, React is written to be completely backward compatible with older browsers.
Our clients are often in need of API-driven native mobile apps, television-based apps, and content ingestion on connected devices. We've implemented these things in less holistic ways with our clients in the past. But the new Lullabot.com gave us a chance to experiment with some methodologies that weren't quite tried-and-tested enough to recommend to our clients. But now that we've had a chance to see the type of flexibility they give us on lullabot.com, we'll be adding this to the array of architectural strategies that we can consider for our clients in the future.
Look ma, no hands!
The results are amazing; high-speed, high-performance, and superlative flexibility. In layman's terms, this means our Design and Front-end people can go crazy – implementing blue-sky ideas without the usual Drupal markup constraints. The new site is fully responsive. Articles and portfolio work pages can have giant, dazzling, full browser-height background images or videos. Articles have big text that is easy to read on any scale from large desktop monitors to the smallest phone screens. Furthermore, we did everything with an eye toward blazing fast page loads. We omitted jQuery, trading convenience in the development process for speedy page loads. Then we looked at every http request, every image, every library to make sure our website was as snappy on an older smartphone as it was on the desktop. Best of all, we off-loaded much of the heavy lifting to the client-side with React.
Design-wise, the new site is uncluttered, sparse, and relatively simple. But whether you're looking for our vast archive of articles or podcasts, information about what services Lullabot offers, who we've worked with and what we've done, or you're curious to know what it's like to work at Lullabot, it's all there.
Over the coming months, we will be writing a series of articles and doing a few podcasts talking about different aspects of the new site. Please subscribe to the Lullabot email newsletter below and you'll be the first to know when new articles are published.