Transforming Australia’s largest online arts community

ArtsHub is Australia’s largest online membership community for the arts world. Its website serves as a marketplace to connect audiences with arts news, jobs, grants and events.

The Code Company embarked on a complex data migration project to modernise ArtsHub’s tech stack and set the team up for future growth.

“I’m most excited about seeing what the new website will allow us to do from a product and revenue perspective.

We can now innovate and experiment with new commercial products”

Sol Wise, CEO



Modernising a rigid and expensive CMS

Like many publishers, ArtsHub had outgrown its original custom-built CMS.

It was outdated, expensive to maintain and the source of major business inefficiencies.

The content team were growing increasingly frustrated by the rigid editorial experience and their inability to update or modernise the site. The website also experienced repeated periods of downtime due to server issues.

Tackling revenue-generation challenges

Despite having a membership-based and classifieds revenue model, ArtsHub’s inflexible system made it hard for the product team to innovate.

Creating new online products was a challenge, as was the convoluted sales and renewals process, which featured multiple manual steps.  

ArtsHub’s technology stack was built in-house and maintained by a single internal staff member, creating a significant business risk.

This meant that the in-house technical specialist was continually pulled into maintenance work instead of focussing on business growth


Tech-led business transformation

We kicked off the project with a detailed discovery to gain a thorough understanding of ArtsHub’s bespoke system and identify the best way to eliminate their existing technical issues. 

As soon as the team began to communicate their ambitious goals, it was clear that every aspect of their tech stack needed to be modernised.

This was far more than a simple web development project – it was a major change management initiative, which impacted every department in the organisation.

From ad tech and email marketing to hosting and membership strategy, the decision to upgrade the website ultimately transformed how ArtsHub’s entire business operates. 

The initial discovery process gave us sufficient insight to commence development. However, we continued to learn, create, test and iterate right throughout the project.

There were a lot of unknowns when we entered this project and the discovery process identified a number of unexpected issues.

The team was great at problem solving. They confidently assessed every issue and made pragmatic recommendations based on our budget”

Sol Wise, CEO



Using WordPress to streamline editorial workflows and reduce risk

A move to WordPress allowed for a strategic look at how content was authored and published internally. We explored the way articles are drafted, published and featured on different sections of the website. 

Having come from a legacy CMS that had been customised significantly over the years, many of these workflows could be simplified and standardised within the WordPress administration area.

The decision to move to WordPress also meant we could eliminate the historical technical debt (and associated maintenance costs) that is commonly found in bespoke builds of this kind.

Perhaps most importantly, a WordPress powered publishing platform gives ArtsHub complete ownership of their site, their audience and their data. 

“We chose to work with The Code Company because they were realistic about the complexity of the problem we were trying to solve. Other agencies seemed almost flippant about the work required and that made us nervous.

We always had a great deal of confidence in The Code Company’s expertise”

Sol Wise, CEO



A complex migration from a redundant database

Our migration specialists embarked on the mammoth task of mapping out a plan to transfer data from the complex legacy .net database into WordPress.

There’s no such thing as a simple replatforming (which is why it’s crucial to work with a specialist) but ArtsHub’s was particularly complex.

Their existing site was built in 2008 on a custom Microsoft .NET Framework that was no longer supported.

We architected a custom migration and taxonomy process to ensure no data was lost and that content was organised in clear, intuitive categories.

“We’re no longer operating on ‘spaghetti code’ and reliant on a single developer”

Sol Wise, CEO



Automated memberships, sales and payment processing

We modernised Artshub’s payment processing system with a custom WordPress integration using the Chargify plugin.

The new automated membership solution means:

  • Users can sign-up, upgrade and renew with ease
  • Sales and renewals processes are simplified
  • The number of steps required to make a sale is reduced
  • Immediate CX improvements

The Code Company’s recommendations highlighted the need for a full front-end redesign. So we worked closely with Artshub’s chosen design agency to bring their vision for the site to life.

We implemented a new email marketing system and engineered the site with modern ad standards and formats in mind.

These changes opened up new revenue generation opportunities for ArtsHub and allowed the sales team to experiment and innovate.


A platform to launch new verticals and unlock business growth

For many media organisations, replicable business models are the secret to sustainability. However, the growth potential of ArtsHub was restricted by the limitations of its proprietary CMS.  

Moving to a standardised tech stack made it easy for the business to expand into new verticals.

The Code Company leveraged ArtsHub’s existing theme and membership functionality, which allowed us to create a new website much faster than if we’d started from scratch with a separate build. 

The efficiencies this created meant ArtsHub’s newest vertical GamesHub was able to launch within a month of replatforming to WordPress!


A delivery process that evolved with the business

The Code Company’s delivery process was vital in facilitating the successful transformation of ArtsHub’s digital business.

Iterative working meant the project was never derailed by the intensely challenging market conditions that Covid presented.

Our team had the flexibility to adapt their work as ArtsHub’s business needs evolved.