If you’re reading this post and wondering, “What’s changed? The blog looks the same” you’d be right. That’s because we’ve refreshed the other part of the site, where we talk about our services and show off our portfolio of work.
Lessons from Dr. Jekyll
In 2014, we made a bold move to split our site into two: We moved the blog to a sub-domain and branded it Fourword, while the rest of the site was built in Jekyll (a static site generator). We decided on Jekyll because we had used it to build the DrupalCamp Austin 2013 event website and enjoyed the simplicity of working with flat files for such a small site, instead of having to deal with a database.
Our company site isn’t typical of the complex content-heavy sites we build for our clients, and we imagined we could even get away without needing a CMS. Since we enjoyed working with Jekyll for the DrupalCamp site, it would also work well for our company site, and having our blog on Drupal meant the rest of the site’s content would be a great fit for a static generator. After two years, we’re leaving Jekyll, but we’ve learned a lot.
- Changes to site copy could be made directly from GitHub’s well-designed web interface.
- A staging environment was built automatically anytime we created a pull request, and the environment was updated anytime changes were made to a branch.
- Working with Jekyll gave us complete design freedom, rather than having to adhere to CMS templates and guidelines.
- For non-technical team members, GitHub’s world of branches and pull requests was very foreign.
- Deployment was never quite streamlined—even if an editor made copy changes in the code themselves, it required an engineer to make the changes appear on the live site.
- Jekyll is great for a single-user static site, but not ideal for a non-technical marketing team that need to quickly and collaboratively update the site’s content.
Choosing a New Platform
Earlier this year, we pulled the blog from its subdomain, and back onto fourkitchens.com proper. We wanted the experience of moving between the main site and the blog to be seamless, and felt this outweighed any benefits of treating our blog like a sub-brand. Now that the blog and main site would live together again, and Jekyll’s pain points were being felt more and more, why should the sites live on different platforms? They shouldn’t.
Today, the non-blog portion of the site lives in WordPress, and next we’re working to migrate the blog into the same system. Why WordPress? Just like when we built the last site on Jekyll, we we wanted to try something new. We still love working with Drupal and are continuing to build beautiful, content-rich websites in Drupal 8 (see our work with American Craft Council and NYU Nursing). We’re confident that using a new tool will help expose our team to new technologies, and our experiences can feed back into the open-source communities of both WordPress and Drupal.
Enough about technology—the main reason we wanted to refresh the site was to update the content so visitors would get a better idea of the work we do and how we do it. We’ve updated our Services page to explain our focus on content strategy, development, UX Design, and support. There’s a brand new Process page that speaks to how we value Discovery workshops and how we go from project definition to architecting and implementing a solution. We’ve also updated our Portfolio with case studies on our work with NBC, Successful Farming, and American Craft Council.
The Four Kitchens New Website team included Joe Tower as lead engineer, Douglas Bigham as project owner and content specialist, Donna Habersaat on information architecture and interaction design, Trasi Judd as project manager, Mike Minecki on systems architecture, and Lucy Weinmeister as marketing strategist; with additional support from Four Kitchens’ Web Chefs Randy Oest, Jon Peck, Caris Hurd, Elia Albarran, Elliott Foster, Taylor Smith, and Suzy Bates.