Daimler Truck Group approached Luminary for the development of several new websites for its sub-brands. Fuso was to set the stage, with Freightliner to follow shortly after. The requirements for each site had commonalities that could be developed in one go instead of separately for each brand, so there was an opportunity to re-use functionality for more efficient development. The focus could then be put on perfecting the standout features that were specific to each site.
Multi-branding in Optimizely DXP
The Optimizely Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is a great choice for any digital transformation that involves multiple websites or applications. A key aspect of the Optimizely CMS is that it is multi-tenant, which means that it can run multiple websites on a single instance. Creating new websites and sharing content between multiple sites is therefore very straightforward. The code, database, and media storage are also shared between the websites, making it possible to practically share any features or content.
The Fuso and Freightliner sites benefit from living in the same Optimizely environment by sharing functionality. It starts with the foundational features such as SEO, performance, image optimisation and other CMS customisations. Any improvements in this area will benefit all of the sites within the Optimizely platform. On top of that, a subset of the components (or blocks) can be shared with the brand styling applied separately.
In Optimizely, developers create custom page templates and blocks (aka components) that can be used to set up the content. How these pages and blocks are displayed on the site is totally flexible and handled by the developer. It's therefore possible to render a block differently based on the site that it's used on, or in our case, based on the brand of the site.
The sites are individually configured to apply the unique styling of a brand. As a result, the smart components can be used on every site while they are displayed differently. You can even share the same content across sites while maintaining the look and feel of each brand. This separation of content from its representation has a lot of the same benefits as the headless content strategy, although in headless you might miss out on any visual editing features, while in Optimizely it has always been possible to preview content based on the context — for example based on device or any type of personalisation.
The platform is very capable when it comes to sharing content between pages and even sites. Any content can easily be shared — even blocks, forms and images. That's why any of these types of content can be edited and published individually. For example a block that is used on multiple pages or sites will have a yellow bar at the top that displays where it is used.
One of the requirements was to share dealership data across the brands, and import this data regularly via an automated integration with external sources. We decided to store this data as content to benefit from content features such as versioning, editing capabilities and automated search indexing. The brands use this dealership content mainly in the dealership locator, which is a shared component that allows users to search and contact dealerships. Internal features of the dealer locator ensure that only relevant details are displayed for the particular brand.
Roles and permissions
The user roles and permissions played a key part in the multi-brand management of content. The content has to be managed separately per brand even though they are essentially in the same content tree. A content editor should only have access to the sites and resources that are relevant to their respective brand. To achieve this we've used a combination of the permissions management available in Optimizely and a customised single sign-on (SSO) integration.
Setting up SSO in the CMS requires a custom solution built by developers. Partly because there are so many different protocols and providers out there, and it allows for more flexibility. The good thing is that the CMS has mechanics to help synchronise the users and roles in order to still use the in-house permissions system. The administrator is able to set content-based permissions to any of the roles supplied by the SSO identity provider.
Challenges and key learnings
We set out with some ambitious goals for a state-of-the-art multi-brand build. The obstacles that came with that turned into great learning experiences and pushed the boundaries of CMS development.
- Design flexibility – With a focus on sharing functionality it could be challenging to design two unique brands without accidentally increasing the development effort. It's something that can happen with any design, but in a multi-brand scenario this is amplified.
- Complexity, one step at a time – It's easy to fall into the trap of overcomplicating the simple components in order to achieve maximum reusability. In a development process where flexibility is key, you need to be able to pivot even when a solution is overly complex. Segmentation of features into small chunks made a key difference when it came to maintaining the fast moving development progress and to be able to adjust on the fly.
- Picking the right platform for the job – In some cases the CMS platform is purely picked based on the amount of features that are required. What can be overlooked is that the requirements will never perfectly fit the mould. The flexibility of the Optimizely CMS combined with the foundational approach to 'everything is content' made it possible to sculpt the best solution without compromises.
- Working with the platform, not against it – What we frequently see in the CMS development communities is that solutions become disconnected from the platform in favour of control and flexibility. This can hamstring your development progress by slowing things down. In our multi-brand solution we used Optimizely's capabilities in practically all of the custom features.
This certainly isn't the last we'll see of multi-brand solutions. Now that headless is becoming more popular, we'll start seeing more digital transformations lean towards an efficient and flexible development strategy. With Optimizely leading the all-in-one content management suite that integrates with its other products, we are looking forward to what's in store.
Watch Ynze presenting on this topic at the September 2022 Optimizely Meetup, hosted by Luminary.
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