Modernising and Migrating Political Publisher Crikey, to the Cloud

Australia's most vigorously independent news publication, with 20 years of fearless journalism under its belt, needed to mordernise its publishing technology stack for the 21st century.

Crikey is one of the most respected political publishers in the Australian market, producing content online and a popular email newsletter available to paying subscribers.

Along with its unique heritage in the news world, Crikey was one of the earliest adopters of the WordPress Multisite platform, having run on it since 2008 - before it was even included in WordPress core.

Outdated layers of technology

Most of the site's backend code was created in the early days of WordPress, which meant things were done differently from modern WordPress best practices.

With a major redesign already underway, The Code Company was engaged to oversee the delivery of the entire project, including the template code integration from an external design agency, working with inhouse developers, the cloud migration and re-developing a number of critical editorial workflow tools.

Crikey Screenshot 2015

Rebuild an editorial workflow with modern approaches

When Crikey first moved to WordPress in 2008, WordPress was a basic content management system in its early stages.

In order for the website to work the way it needed, Crikey had to use a lot of manual overrides or ‘hacks’ to meet its business requirements.

One of the big goals of the 2016 relaunch was to remove all the cobwebs and rewrite custom business logic using WordPress best practices and standards.

We could then take advantage of the significant advancements in WordPress between 2008 to 2016.

Implement WordPress best practices, resulting in over 200% increases in frontend and backend performance

While the new site was being rolled out, we reviewed the WordPress theme implementation to ensure that the supplied HTML, CSS and JS from the UI agency integrated into a WordPress theme that was going to scale.

We also made sure every aspect of the website took advantage of all the caching and performance tools available to ensure the new site was as fast as possible.

RESULTS

Backend load time from 1400ms to 400ms.

Average end user load time from 50 seconds to 5.

Speedcurve Monitoring showing page load times
Speedcurve Monitoring showing page load times

“The Code Company implicitly and explicitly understood that existing solutions were as convoluted as the requirements and the technology once available, full of loops and hacks and about a zillion more queries and requests than we now need to make things respond in a way that makes sense.”

- Nadine Raydan, Head of Product & Operations

Publishing Technology Upgrades

Along with the major website redevelopment, The Code Company worked with Crikey and parent company Private Media on a number of projects to enhance their technology stack.

  • Move to full HTTPS - we were able to resolve a wide range of outstanding, partially-implemented HTTPS issues, and manage the search engine implications for the transfer.
  • Upgrade to PHP 7 - some legacy codebase would not be PHP7 compatible - this unlocked significant performance and ongoing development benefits.
  • Clean user database - We developed a tool to sweep the user database, which contained hundreds of thousands of defunct, duplicate or corrupted user accounts.
  • Go responsive - we moved away from the often clunky and ineffective approach of split desktop and mobile websites.
  • Roll out Google Ad Manager - we used our expertise in working with Doubleclick for Publishers to help transition the sales team from an old cumbersome adtech platform.

Newsletter Builder Workflow

One of the biggest member benefits is the much respected Crikey Insider newsletter. The legacy newsletter builder predated most of WordPress' APIs and very clunky to work with slowing down the creation of the daily newsletter. 

The Code Company was able to take our knowledge of working with publishers and the typical kinds of workflows and requirements for a newsletter builder, and built out a WordPress-native newsletter builder tool that allowed the staff to rapidly assemble the daily newsletter and send.

We extend our thanks to The Code Company for the successful relaunch, our server side migration, and the open heart surgery the team performs every time they solve some of the bigger problems we’re having.

- Nadine Raydan, Head of Product & Operations

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