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Case study: Upgrading – and Enhancing – a Drupal-based Office Space Rental Website

Turnkey Office Space

Client: Fast-growing rental business company specializing in office spaces across the USA.

Objective: Upgrade an existing Drupal-based website and enhance it with additional functionality for improving user experience and optimizing work processes.

Solution: Redesigned Drupal website, boasting a seamless integration with an advanced version of CRM, enhanced with additional functionality and featuring a user-friendly interface.

Target audience: Businesses, mostly IT and tech companies, searching for office rentals.

Team: 2 Drupal developers, 1 Drupal lead, 2 Frontend developers, 1 Designer, 1 QA, 1 PM.

Technologies & tools applied: Drupal 7.6, hosted on Pantheon, MySQL, Redis for caching, HTML/JS/CSS3.

Problem

Our customer wanted to upgrade their 7.6 Drupal website for a number of reasons:

  • Imperfect coding which perpetually incurred multiple errors in the website performance;
  • Need for a more efficient integration with the custom CRM, also based on the Drupal platform, to ameliorate and simplify the workload;
  • Need for adaptive mobile and tablet versions of the website;
  • Willingness to add new features for the workload optimization.

Due to budget concerns, the customer chose to redesign and upgrade the existing website, and not to redo it from scratch. However, the scope of work was getting more extensive as more and more errors in the previous code development were arising causing obfuscation and lower website speed, so our team was continuously facing challenges concerning the site performance.

Getting an Advanced Design for the Website

As the website serves as a façade of the customer’s business, they wanted a top-notch, sleek and user-friendly design for it.

And here our website software development team faced the first problem, as the design delivered by a third-party agency was not compliant with layout guidelines. For instance, the website was not mobile- and tablet-responsive, with the icons developed without different screen sizes in mind. The desktop version also contained bugs, noted by our front end developers.

Our custom web application development company had to fix emerging errors, to get a functional responsive design which we used for our further work.

Tip

When choosing a web app development company for your full-scale project, go for those which have experts with different competences, who can assist with tackling problems, arising unexpectedly during the development phase.

Working on an Efficient Drupal-based CRM

The initial CRM was custom-written and didn’t have all the functionality needed by the client regarding aspects of sales, order management, and accounting processes.

Here is what we did to enhance its functionality:

  • Added enhanced contact forms. We replaced the previous inefficient contact form with the new one provided by the Webform module, and enriched it with a new logic. Before, once a prospective client submitted a contact form, a lead was generated automatically in the CRM, containing all the information from the form. Our Drupal experts broadened the scope of application of the contact form, and now it can be submitted from either a page dedicated to the selected rental, or from a page of rentals containing up to 8 variants and the Contact button associated with each of them. This information gets stored in the CRM.

This feature allows our Customer to easily track his client’s preferences in certain properties right from the start, and offer a higher level of service.

  • CRM design. We simplified the work of the person assigned with the role of “website admin” by making the CRM admin dashboard more readable and more compatible with the design of the website desktop version.

Adding Functionality to the Website

The website’s performance suffered from bugs in the code, which we needed to fix to deliver a stable functioning of the website and carry on with implementing new features. Our Drupal developers rewrote parts of the code in compliance with the Drupal Convention.

Eugene Sokolov, R-Style Lab’s Drupal lead developer, admits that “Fixing the code turned out to become a time consuming part of the project, taking up to 30% of the whole development phase”.

Apart from correcting the code, we added new features to the website:

  • Featured lists. As a result of the website’s upgrade, each US state where rentals are offered contains a brief description of the state, a list of 3 biggest cities in it, with a list of featured offerings in each of them, thus providing more granularity to end users during the browsing process.
  • Added map. Now, when searching through a list of offers, an end user has a map on each page, where up to 8 office rentals are pinned, which facilitates the browsing process. Besides, active cursors were introduced: when located over an element, they provide brief information about the property.
  • SEO optimization. Leveraging the Drupal SEO-friendly nature to the full, we worked on the following elements to make the website more search engine-friendly: 1) worked on the clean XML map of the website for better indexation; 2) enabled pagination hyperlinks; 3) introduced structured meta tags for search forms.
  • Empowered image slicing. This feature allows for automatic adaptation and manipulation of the image, once this image is uploaded, depending on the layout requests.
  • Adding new categories and contact forms. The categories “Become an Affiliate” and “List with Us” were added, each provided with a contact form, and aimed at broadening the Customer’s network of partners.
  • Replacing static text blocks with a dynamic structure (nodes & views). Before, to make changes to a text block, certain skills in HTML coding were required. Now, the process of introducing changes has been simplified, as we implemented a new content type where an admin puts all the information needed, and this information is displayed via custom templates containing assigned HTML tags.

Results

The customer received a better looking and better performing Drupal website, with a design adaptive to multiple screen sizes, and a better integration with the custom CRM. The project was relaunched not long ago and is expected to gain a growing number of leads, generated by the advanced navigation and UX design, and better conversion rates.

Satisfied with the level of the provided services, the customer is thinking about engaging R-Style Lab in further development and advancement of the project, first of all their mobile applications mirroring the functionality of the website to expand their reach.

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