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Pageant Planet is the world’s leading resource for anyone interested in participating in pageants. With nearly a half-million daily visitors, Pageant Planet provides guidance to contestants and helps connect everyone involved in the pageant industry, from coaches to sponsors to emcees and other service providers.

Technology Stack

What’s remarkable about Pageant Planet is that it began as a simple blog. Founder Steven Roddy, an aspiring motivational speaker and former football team owner, decided to chronicle the story of his then girlfriend as she made her way to the Miss America stage.

By joining her on this journey, he learned about coaching and funding, and he came to realize that the industry needed a platform where contestants, coaches, and sponsors could find each other. This idea eventually gave birth to today’s Pageant Planet, but the road ahead was long. Steven would end up working with a number of tech partners along the way, in an effort to create an interactive platform that served the entire pageant industry.

The new platform gradually grew in size and popularity, and Pageant Planet was eventually given the opportunity to manage the People’s Choice Award for a prestigious pageant. In other words, audience members would log into the Pageant Planet website to cast their votes—an enormous opportunity for Steven and his team.

The problem? Less than eight weeks out, it seemed as though the People’s Choice Award would not be ready for the upcoming competition. That’s when Steven turned to Net Solutions.

The challenge: Making the vision a reality

Could Net Solutions Deliver the People’s Choice Feature in Just Six Weeks?

Anything short of success would be a tremendous embarrassment for Steven, so he poured all his energy into finding a tech partner who could fix the issues… in record speed! This was absolutely vital, since managing the People’s Choice Award would thrust them into the limelight, before the entire pageant industry. Luckily, Steven found Net Solutions.

The team at Net Solutions scoured the code, highlighting all the major issues and identifying the necessary steps to get Pageant Planet out of the weeds. Based on his initial experience and research, Steven took a leap of faith and commissioned Net Solutions for the job. The team got to work immediately, prioritizing the most essential changes and delivering a fully-functional solution in just 40 days.

The People’s Choice Award went off without a hitch, solidifying Pageant Planet's position as a leading resource in the industry.

My last four vendors would deploy features without telling me and without adequate testing, which would cause the site to break. Net Solutions delivers functionalities that work within our existing structure.

Steven Roddy

Steven Roddy

CEO, Pageant Planet Pageant

Optimizing the Platform

Once Steven saw what Net Solutions could do in just 40 days, he turned to them to address a long list of bugs and to add features that would improve the platform’s functionality. The four tech teams he had previously hired left behind a system full of bugs, and each repair would produce a different problem. He needed someone who would be able to understand how all the components worked together, and based on their performance, he once again put his trust in Net Solutions. Partnering with an Agile Net Solutions team, Steven began work on the following improvements.

  • Infusionsoft Integration: Net Solutions helped Pageant Planet integrate Infusionsoft, a popular CRM software to track and manage funds generated by the website. Additionally, Net solutions built a feature to track incoming funds, producing easy-to-read reports showing when client payments were due.
  • People’s Choice Enhancements: Having cleared the first hurdle, enabling Pageant Planet to run the People’s Choice Awards at a popular pageant, Net Solutions worked to enhance the tool’s functionality. This made the tool easier to configure for future pageants and different use cases.
  • Speed Improvements: Net Solutions performed a range of fixes to make Pageant Planet run faster and more efficiently.

    Each of these improvements further convinced Steven that he had found his tech partners—a team that could think creatively and strategically to find seamless solutions.
Expanding Pageant Planet’s Features

Expanding Pageant Planet’s Features

As Pageant Planet’s influence in the industry grew, so did their partnership with Net Solutions. Steven continued to discover opportunities to better serve his target audience, and he relied on Net Solutions to make his vision a reality. Some of these game-changing features included the following.

  • Site-based Messaging: One of Pageant Planet’s biggest draws was that it allowed contestants to find coaches and sponsors, but users had to employ other means to communicate. That’s why Net Solutions created a site-based messaging system. This made it easier for users to connect with one another, thereby keeping users within the platform longer and increasing the site’s overall value proposition.
  • eCommerce Capabilities: Pageant Planet was connected to an eCommerce site, but the eCommerce component was built on a standalone WordPress installation that was separate from the main site. This meant that any reporting or administration was done through a separate dashboard.

    To create a more seamless interface, Net Solutions integrated an eCommerce shop on the Laravel instance which powers the Pageant Planet platform, bringing the administration to the main dashboard. It also included enhanced features that allowed members to sell products directly to each other.
  • “Help Me Find” Wizard: Customer feedback revealed that contestants seeking coaches or sponsors don’t always know where to begin. They had plenty of providers to sort through, but they needed a little help narrowing their options. With this in mind, the team created a multi-step wizard that asks contestants simple questions to help them identify a shortlist of professionals who fit their needs. The feature also helps providers discover potential clients.
  • Crowdfunding Tool: Participating in pageants can be expensive, and one reason contestants join Pageant Planet is to find sponsors. To serve this need, Net Solutions created a tool allowing contestants to run crowdfunding drives directly from the platform. The tool also enables contestants to spread the word through social shares and other channels, and funds can be transferred directly to contestants from the platform.
  • Enhanced Search Capabilities: Pageant Planet was quickly becoming the definitive resource for information about the pageant industry. It contained large volumes of information—from articles to user profiles belonging to just about everyone in the industry.

    All this data produced lag in the website’s search feature, so Net Solutions replaced the basic search tool with Elasticsearch, a leading open-source search solution. This both sped up the search feature and added fuzzy search capabilities, where slightly misspelled words could produce relevant results. For example, just like Google, the system would interpret a search for “caoching” as “coaching.”
  • Automated Clearing House for Payments: The platform had multiple finance-related workflows that involved things like accepting membership fees, People’s Choice Awards, eCommerce shops, crowdfunding for contestants, and more.

    Steven wanted to track these exchanges more efficiently, so Net Solutions created an automated clearing house designed to track the various programs and its payments. The system generates reports where Pageant Planet’s team can review the trends, drill down into the details, and receive alerts whenever outbound payments are due.

    Thanks to this highly-accurate and efficient system, which enables on-time payments without a hitch, Pageant Planet has an extremely high satisfaction rating from its partners and users.

Upgrading the Legacy Code

As the site grew, the legacy code began to negatively impact the pace of growth and the ability to implement new features. Based on Net Solutions’ recommendations, Steven decided to upgrade the tech stack from the original Laravel 5/PHP 5 to Laravel 7/PHP 7. The upgrade improved site performance and made additional functionalities available to the Pageant Planet team.

Restructuring the Platform

Restructuring the Platform

With the new tech stack in place, Net Solutions began the biggest overhaul of the site to date—a complete restructuring of the platform.

One major issue that the restructuring solved was something the team dubbed the “multiple profile” issue. Due to the way the system was originally built, users who played multiple roles ended up with separate profiles for each service they offered. For example, a coach who also served as an emcee would need two different profiles.

The solution? The team used a feature called “stacked profiles,” where a single profile could be expanded so users could list and describe multiple areas of expertise.

Next, the Net Solutions team interviewed users to identify other areas of improvement. Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback offered an array of insights, from the fact that users thought the site looked dated to suggestions for workflow improvements. This helped the team identify and prioritize areas for improvement, helping Pageant Planet become the number one resource in the pageant industry.

Net Solutions has alleviated my development concerns. I can now focus fully on building my business, which is invaluable to me.

Steven Roddy

Steven Roddy

CEO, Pageant Planet Pageant

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