Finding a Tech Partner
Anirudh Sharma, Senior Product Manager, had already chosen a creative agency to redesign the UX and UI for the new platform, but he still needed a reliable tech partner to take care of back-end development. That’s when he reached out to Net Solutions.
Net Solutions stood apart from the other vendors by their willingness to ask probing questions, truly making an effort to understand Wheels.ca’s needs. After numerous rounds of interviews, Wheels.ca decided to hire Net Solutions to conduct a two-phased approach.
The first phase would focus on rebuilding the foundation of the platform and implementing core features. The second phase would consist of optimizing and fine-tuning the platform.
Phase 1: Building a New Platform from the Ground up
The first phase of this ambitious project required careful planning and implementation. To both optimize the user experience and streamline workflows for internal staff, Net Solutions built a platform with the following features.
Custom Widgets for WordPress
One challenge was ensuring that the new platform didn’t lose any existing content that lived on the current website, which was created on a much older version of WordPress. Implementing a new platform slightly increased the risk of data loss, and using the existing platform made it easier for the staff, who wouldn’t have to learn a new publishing system.
For the sake of easier data retention and ease of publishing, Wheels.ca and Net Solutions decided to build the new platform on WordPress as well. However, since Wheels.ca needed a highly dynamic and configurable website, Net Solutions needed to create dozens of widgets and custom plugins that were not available on WordPress out-of-the-box.
For example, Net Solutions created a widget that allowed editors at Wheels.ca to override formatting and partially customize post titles.
Integrated Third-party Data Services
Wheels.ca wanted to make it easy for users to find relevant data for all cars running on Canadian roads, so they partnered with Autodata—a third-party data service that sourced tech specs for cars. The database would help link all articles related to any given make and model, making it easy for users to find relevant information on any car.
The problem was that Autodata had an MS SQL database and no API, so there was no means to relay the specs from Autodata to Wheels.ca. To work around this issue, Net Solutions created a microframework layer, allowing WordPress to retrieve the data. This also acted as a buffer between users of the WordPress interface and the highly sensitive Autodata database, essentially hiding it from the end-user.
Configurable Roles and Better Workflows
On the editorial side, the Net Solutions team created highly configurable roles with granular permissions. This allowed the administrators to add additional users under specific roles, and the WordPress interface modified itself based on the role permissions.
This gave staff access to only those options they were authorized to access. Of course, the administrator could also override role-based permissions to allow and/or deny specific permissions to select users.
This functionality also acted as the basis for optimal workflow functionality when it came to publishing. The administrator could create approval workflows, moving the draft through different phases, from editing to a posting. By following a sequence, it ensured that posts would publish to the main site only after they had received the requisite sign-offs.