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Historic painting of ships coming into harbour

History Today

Migrating a content-rich website from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 for History Today

The Client

History Today is the world’s leading serious history magazine. The publication is based in London and published monthly.

They publish the world's leading scholars, on all periods, regions and themes of history. Every contribution is carefully edited and illustrated to make the magazine a pleasurable and informative read.

The Challenge

History Today needed to migrate their website from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. They wanted to take advantage of Drupal 8’s powerful features in order to improve the behaviour and performance of their shop and website advertising. They also wanted to ensure these features were flexible enough to scale in the future.

The History Today website includes an archive of virtually every article published by History Today since it was founded in 1951. It also includes most of the articles from History Review, their periodical for history students, which was published three times a year until 2012. As part of the website migration, all of this content needed to safely be brought over to the new site within a specific timeframe and cost.

Desktop, Macbook, tablet and iPhone showing pages from History Today’s Website

The Solution

Axis12 began with a discovery phase to investigate all html text and design on the History Today Drupal 7 site, so that a plan could be formulated as to the best approach for the website migration.

As Drupal 8 uses a higher version of PHP and underlying operating system, it was clear that the new site needed to sit on a completely separate server. Our team setup a new server for the Drupal 8 site to enable us to run parallel servers throughout the build phase.

Following our discovery phase, we agreed with the History Today team that the Drupal 8 site should be built ‘like for like’ as far as possible. Having investigated the paragraph types within Drupal 8 during the discovery, we had highlighted the paragraphs that would be required on the site and where customisable might be needed.

The team then built the paragraphs, customised templates and styles to create the page types required for the new History Today site. We also began to document how to map existing content types to the new paragraphs.

As the History Today site is incredibly content-rich, a large content migration was required. We created an automatic migration script to ensure all content was safely brought over to the new site and mapped against the chosen paragraph types.

The scrips were started early in the project and repeated to ensure that we brought over all new content that was being created on the old site as well as historic content. This approach reduced the amount of manual content migration and editing for the History Today team.

During our discovery phase it was clear that both the advertising and shop functions should not be built ‘like for like’, as advancements on Drupal 8 meant that we could redesign these in order to significantly improve the behaviour and performance.

Based on this our team created a new ‘advertising’ content type. This allowed editors to upload three different ad images to be used in different locations on the site; banner, sidebar and footer. Each image had its own accompanying URL field to take the user to the target webpage when clicked.

We created views for these content types which displayed a random view of all 'published' ads for that view type. Blocks were then created within the banner, sidebar and footer area, so that they showed to users on every page. These ad blocks then display a random block to users each time the webpage is refreshed.

To allow for customisation, in the back-end editors can remove ad blocks from pages, if required. We also created simple analytics, so that a view count of each ad can be accessed and downloaded in a CSV format.

For the shop we integrated the WorldPay payment gateway using an iframe integration method. Calendars, back issues of the magazine and binders required variable shipping costs based on delivery location whereas other products did not. Our team created a customised extension to allow varying shipping costs for the UK, Europe and the Rest of the World that could be used for these unique products.

Once the new Drupal 8 site was successfully tested by both the Axis12 and History Today teams, we planned a safe and secure cutover. Decommissioning the old site and server, once the History Today team were happy that the new site was working as expected.

The end result is a Drupal 8 version of the History Today site, that is built on a more secure version of PHP and underlying operating system. Using a ‘like for like’ approach has meant the new website looks and feels similar for users; however, both the adverts and shop have been updated and improved.

Our team continue to support the History Today team on their Drupal 8 site and have a phase 2 CRM integration project planned for the future.

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