What was the scope of their involvement?
They created the website from scratch. We needed page templates for articles, account management sections, a way for people to comment and interact on the site, and we needed a way for publication managers to edit and moderate the community aspect. I led the project management, some of the user experience side, and some ideation stuff, but Durkan really took the project and ran with it. They had a creative director on their side, a backend developer, and a project manager and developer working 40 hours a week on our project alone. They had 3 weeks of dev time to build this site and there are some really cool features that are totally custom-built. They did a killer job.
Medium has a highlight and annotation tool. You can select text and either highlight or annotate on it. Being an education publication, we thought that educators would be familiar with this, so we really wanted to bring that elevated experience to this site and help avoid comment drift. This helps the reader stay focused and factual, which we thought would also help towards our goal of creating civil dialogue. Durkan built this annotation/highlight tool for us. You can actually highlight the text and then share it, or you can comment on highlighted text. That was all custom created by their backend developer.
We brought in Durkan Group and key stakeholders while we were still in the pitch phase, and talked to them about requirements and what we wanted to see. Once we selected Durkan, their creative director/front-end developer, their project manager and I drew up an initial functional requirements document. Once they came to us with that, we got sign-off from stakeholders on our end, and then I had a kick-off meeting with their front-end/creative director. We walked through work flows, etc. and she drew up some wireframes. She presented full-resolution mockups and everything came back exactly how we wanted, and then they just started building.
The site is built on WordPress. There are a few different plugins. Most of the stuff was custom-coded. Aside from the annotation tool, there’s no real new technology stack that we implemented. We did a lot of Marketo integration because we use Marketo for marketing automation, and we were able to tap into our database to automate the verification process for users that are commenting. If you have an account that’s recognized in our database, your comment is automatically verified, skips the moderation queue, and is published immediately. Things like that were pretty cool. We are using mostly admin-based plugins, nothing that really drives the front-end.
They did a little SEO work. We installed the Yoast plugin and that does wonders for SEO. But where they really helped out was with Google Analytics integration. They got us fully set up with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager so every event that can be fired on the website is being tracked, and we’re able to do things based off of what events are happening when. They set up email automation for us on the sign-up process and they also set up an app called Zarget, which is a heat map and scroll depth indicator tool that allows us to A/B test. They’re a very holistic agency. They’re not just design and development. They do the whole gambit of digital marketing.
How did you come to work with Durkan Group?
I was Googling top digital agencies in Philadelphia, and Durkan has been on the top 10 list for the past 3 or 4 years running. I had never heard of them, but I saw that they were local to us. We’re in Malvern, PA, and they’re literally a 10-minute drive from here. That was a huge plus for us because we knew going into this that we wanted it to be a deeply collaborative process. I could drive over and hash things out as opposed to trying to draw up a virtual meeting and work out logistics there. That was really cool because we were able to meet in person several times, and I think that helped build a trusting relationship. We were able to work collaboratively like we wanted to from the start.
We pitched the project to a few different agencies and Durkan Group seemed to understand what we needed right away. They asked really relevant and smart questions and spoke to us in a way where we knew that they understood the project requirements.
What is the status of this engagement?
We had our first kick-off meeting in December 2016, had wireframes around the second week of January, and the site went live in March 2017. We still work with them on a regular basis.