Technical Deep Dive: Rolling Stone’s CMS Migration & Development

This is a technical deep dive where we discuss the methods our team used to move Rolling Stone to WordPress, followed by the details of some clever SEO-driven website development that followed. For the full story, check out our full Rolling Stone Case Study.

After our initial discovery period, we determined that our solution for Rolling Stone would involve three separate scopes. Each was critical to the success of the project.

The WordPress logo surrounded by logos from google Cloud Platform used in the migration

1. CMS Migration

XWP leveraged several Google Cloud Platform services to build a highly scalable, multi-stage import routine. We first imported data into Cloud SQL from the legacy PostgreSQL-based platform, then set up a staging WordPress installation on App Engine and created a mapping database on Cloud Firestore in Datastore mode

Then, we developed a set of Cloud Functions that would map and migrate each data record and media object, along with replacing references to them inside the content, to WordPress. We did this using the built-in REST API, which handled an impressive ~800 POST requests per second, and significantly more GET requests. This process could be executed multiple times to capture live changes to the production data after the initial import, while keeping infrastructure costs low as everything was taken down once completed. 

By using these advanced tools in Google Cloud Platform, we were able to reliably transfer media and images without any data loss or negative impacts to technical SEO, as old URLs were properly mapped and redirected during the process. The other key advantage of leveraging cloud functions is that migration occurs at a significantly faster pace than traditional importing methods for WordPress; instead of days and hours, it took minutes and seconds.

A large part of the migration’s success also came down to testing. By the time our team was ready to push the ‘migrate’ button, we had thoroughly tested the process to ensure it would run without issue and with complete accuracy.

2. Feature & Theme Development

With the initial migration complete, we focused on developing new SEO-driven editorial features that could be shared across the PMC roster of brands, and accompanying theming for bespoke page types.

Rolling Stone is known for their unique breakdowns of music, film, and TV shows into ‘listicles.’ These have a unique layout, and the editorial team putting them together needed an interface that would allow them to be produced quickly and efficiently. 

Our team worked hand in hand with Rolling Stone’s editorial team to identify their needs and engineered a custom functionality, including: 

URL Changes: We created a dynamic URL that changes with each list number. This acts as an anchor point for hyperlinks to the content. It also helps with advertising and data tracking. Check out an example here.

Numbered Workflow: In addition to creating URLs that change dynamically as a user scrolled through a list, we also created functionality that changes the header of the page dynamically as the list gets longer or shorter, depending on the editorial team’s needs. The lists were made to either go in ascending or descending order, whichever was specified by the author. 

We also added: 

  • The ability to number and reorder list items.
  • A custom focal-point image cropping tool.
  • Template selection based on the focus of the article (albums vs general).
  • Some of these articles can contain hundreds of items, so our team created a custom pagination solution that allowed users to easily navigate through them.

3. VIP Compliance

Since 2015, XWP has partnered with WordPress VIP as an agency partner. Our team is extremely familiar with their coding standards and platform nuances. Every bit of plugin and theme code we worked on for Rolling Stone was tested according to VIP sniffs. The code we developed met and exceeded VIP’s high standards for development, and went through their extensive review without issue.

VIP is an excellent enterprise WordPress solution, providing a highly scalable, highly-performant platform for high-traffic, enterprise sites. The partnership between XWP and VIP made for a seamless migration. 

Achieving 80/20

Perhaps the biggest achievements from the Rolling Stone migration are the improvements to the development and design processes throughout PMC’s properties.

As mentioned in our full case study, all of PMC’s properties operate on one CMS, WordPress, to improve productivity, and achieve an 80/20 approach to website management, where 80% of their infrastructure is shared, and 20% personalized with unique design and features for each brand. 

The migration for was a notable undertaking with a significant gain for their team in the long term: the PMC team, along with help from XWP, has helped create a foundation for their business to grow.

Their ‘80/20’ philosophy of design and development is what makes it easy for businesses to be onboarded into their portfolio. Each project has brought PMC closer to realizing its ultimate goal of a seamless onboarding process, making new publications more profitable and more in line with their editorial process, due to a solid foundation to build or rebuild websites.

We pride ourselves on the technical excellence of our bespoke solutions. Ready to see how we can help your brand?