Building a Rich Content Experience on Shopify
Replatform Boardmaker, a content-heavy, industry leader from a custom platform to Shopify while retaining and improving their user-experience.
Tobii Dynavox is a worldwide leader in the development, manufacture and distribution of tools that assist children and adults alike overcome physical or cognitive challenges. For example, their assistive speech tablets allow children with Autism Spectrum Disorder communicate without speech by pushing digital pictures to form thoughts and sentences.
Boardmaker's Eye Gaze Devices allow those challenged with Cerebral Palsy interact normally with a computer by using just the movement of their eyes. And their Boardmaker line, incorporates software, print material, classroom-centric tools and products and a ton of reference material and has been around (as Mayer-Johnson) since 1980.
So when Tobii Dynavox decided to move the Boardmaker flagship site from their custom platform to Shopify, it was with no small amount of trepidation. This was a brand with a dedicated customer base, a long and admirable history, and an impeccable reputation.
Tobii enlisted BlueSwitch, a leading Shopify Plus partner based in the Financial District of New York City to implement the application replatforming. BlueSwitch to date had done countless replatforms to Shopify, as well as building private apps, and customizations for Shopify themes. Additionally, BlueSwitch prides itself on coming up with creative solutions to any challenge. Sometimes it’s programmatically enhancing a native Shopify feature, other times it’s using one or more apps to create the needed functionality.
In this case, aside from the normal integrations and development Boardmaker had several specific needs for the project.
- Integration with Salesforce where much of their content was housed.
- A location on the front-end for that content to live, be easily accessed and searched, and for it to be indexed in a way that we could query article groups programmatically.
- The ability for their team to create beautiful content pages without any programming knowledge.
The integration to Salesforce was straight forward and relatively easily accomplished. However, finding a home for the content proved a little trickier. We decided that the Shopify Blog functionality would actually serve the purpose well.
Essentially what we did here was create a “Master” blog and subsequent “Sub-Blogs.” The easiest way to think about these is in the same way you might think about products belonging to a Department > Sub-Department. By creating the Sub-Blogs and naming then as content categories, we could:
- Categorize and index like content
- Iterate programmatically through content (articles, webinars, etc.) on a category by category basis
- Target specific categories and articles with specific design templates
For example, take a look at the Boardmaker Getting Started page.
Looking at the page, what you’re seeing at the top is the total content for the blog post consisting of a single paragraph of text, and an image to the right. On the bottom of the page is a sub-nav. Inside each of the sub-navs, behind the scenes we are iterating through articles that belong to the sub-blogs of “Learning Resources”, “User Guides & Tutorials” and “Support Articles.” The result is a seamless content-rich portal that one wouldn’t normally associate with Shopify. This was possible because of our application replatforming and upgraded user experience.
The one challenge using this approach was for Search. When a user searches inside of a sub-category, we wanted the results to be limited to that specific sub-category. At the time of this writing, we used a solution we found discussed by others with similar needs. Namely, we inject the keyword for the sub-category into the search string after the user clicks “Search.” While not the most elegant solution, it does serve the current need, though in the future, the entire Search experience is going to be upgraded.
Once we got their media library imported, categorized and sortable, it was time to move to the next challenge: empowering their team to create beautiful pages, quickly and easily.