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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Case story: Olympic Holidays

The boarding

Olympic Holidays needed content to run their website and supplement their booking engine. It’s the usual website pages, thousands of hotels, differing terms and conditions, many integrations and tens of thousands of images. This had to be a total rebuild of an old v4 build of Umbraco that the clients hated into a newer v7 build that they now love. We, Offroadcode, aimed to turn what the client called "Umbraco Face" from a frustrated frown into a beaming grin.

Our main goals were to:

🌴 Ease the administration burden by rethinking the structure and adding smarter property editors that “make sense”.

🌴 Improve the backoffice speed as this was really becoming a productivity drain.

🌴 Improve the general day-to-day editor experience so finding and editing content is easier and trouble free, and appears on the frontend instantly rather than after a 24 hour lag.

🌴 Enabling easier development of future features by having a better foundation to build up on.

🌴 Bring together many additional data sources (spreadsheets, XML look up files, additional database tables, etc.) into one place to store and edit them once and for all.

🌴 Plus the small matter of completely redesigning the front end from the ground up while integrating it into a separate booking engine.

This has been an ongoing project and we keep adding to the solution as editors report back points of friction or frustration. Now they have seen what a back office can be like they keep asking “can you get it to do this?” and we take pride in trying to turn the “yes it could” into a “yes it does” as quickly as we can.

The flight

The client had an existing Umbraco CMS (not built by us, but selected on our recommendation) which was a replacement for an aging bespoke CMS that was long past its sell by date.

However the existing Umbraco build was a straight copy of the existing bespoke CMS and did very little to fix the original CMS’s shortcomings or maximise on the “goodness” of Umbraco. If anything it showed off some of the worst of Umbraco and had given the client a bad impression. Very slow back end, broken core functionality due to incomplete upgrades and very little to make a nice “editor experience”.

We knew that Umbraco would be a fantastic fit for the client. They had already used it, they had a feel for it, so would need only limited retraining. We did though have to win them over on Umbraco again. Showing off some of our other builds and v7 helped get sign off.

The nicer UI certainly helped and our examples of how we can make the backend more productive and the opportunities to customise it to their needs with custom functionality sealed the deal. We expect the site to have a life of 5 plus years before the backend gets rebuilt again, so we needed a robust CMS with a strong future and the ability to grow with the client’s needs. Umbraco seemed the obvious choice!

The destination

The biggest gain that the client has had is an increase in available editor hours due to the improvements in the setup of the backoffice.

Editing no longer takes so much time (dead time waiting for pages to load or trying to find things or having to edit one field on each content item one at a time) so they have more time to spend on enriching the content, ensuring it is accurate, up to date and engaging. These are all activities they wanted to do but the answer was always “where will we find the time?”.

The new back office not only frees them up to do these tasks but encourages them to do the right thing in a fun way. The redesign has increased the conversion rate by 23 percent and this is at a time when the advertising budgets have been tightened so more is there we believe once marketing tap is opened up again.

Umbraco sad face no more!

Why and how it flies

We’ve done quite a lot on this build and released (or are in the process of releasing) a lot of the things we did as packages. Some of the packages we used/created are:

✈️ EditorNotes: allows us to embed instructions about a doctype right there in the editor, when to use it, how to use it, examples, etc.

✈️ Bulk Editor: allows editors to select which content items they want to edit, select the fields to edit and then edit all the content in one place, with paging to make it sane. Think of updating stock quantities for lots of products all in one place.

✈️ Sortable Media: allows editors to drag and drop the ordering of images in media folders. We link to a folder of images for each resort (rather than select many images for every resort as the media section is better at managing...erm...media). But after launch the client wanted to be able to sort the order of the images quickly. The built in method is slow so we wrote a drag and drop sort (and released it). Winning.

✈️ Text over image: easily allow our editors to build nice page banners with text overlays. Move the text around and resize the banner as needed. See the video for a more in-depth tour of some of the goodies we’ve done.


Umbraco is such a good editor experience out of the box. It does an amazing job of helping the editors to do their job while allowing us to supplement that experience with an amount of customisation (which Umbraco makes easy for us too).

Throughout the site we’ve added lots of informative and witty property descriptions to engage the editors. They have to work here every day so we make it interesting and lighten the mental load on trying to remember what all the fields do and where they might be used. They also help as developer notes for us too. On a site this big it’s helpful to know what does what or goes where in the back office.

Related Story

Case story: Rako Controls

Rako Controls is an international manufacturer of lighting controls. It’s a technology that allows its users to manage lighting and dimming throughout their homes, office or any building. Rako Controls wanted to change their outdated in-house developed website to a new site that’s more user-friendly, beautiful and light (pun intended). All of this was achieved by our Gold Partner Visarc using Umbraco as a foundation. New website is not only working much better, but also showcases an impressive design.

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