In May 2012, RD2 and Ford Motor Company of Canada launched the Ford Canada Blog, a new high-profile social property from Ford Canada. Determined to continue the innovation with Ford’s social properties, RD2 has been working quickly to get something else pretty awesome out of the labs and into production: the Drive to Discover tour microsite.
What’s unique about this new microsite is not simply that it’s another new property, but more so what we did underneath the hood to enhance the base set functionality WordPress brings to the table. Example: WordPress doesn’t allow for easy cross-posting from one WordPress website to another. There are various paid web services that offer such a thing, but they don’t seem to address the ever-present concern of SEO ranking; two URLs with the same exact content will be dinged for having the same content. Stack a multiple language/device agnosticism requirement on top, and many design labs would say, “That’s crazy talk!!”
Underneath the Hood (Where the real magic happens)
WordPress has developed from a simple blogging platform into a content management system driving many online properties today, social and otherwise. When approached with the task of cross-posting content from one WordPress website to another, we searched high and low for a plugin that would take care of our needs. After a few trials we found that the existing plugins simply didn’t make the cut; copying and pasting the content repeatedly wasn’t a viable option for the long-term either. Undeterred, we opted to make our own plugin to address this requirement.
Content authoring for the new Drive to Discover microsite occurs in the same place as the Ford Canada Blog, making cross-posting content easier than it has been previously. Editors and website administrators are able to selectively cross-post content from the Ford Canada Blog to just one additional microsite, or to multiple other microsites. As an added bonus, this plugin is SEO friendly. Microsites which contain content cross-posted under normal circumstances would be at high-risk for negative SEO ranking; at a high level, we’ve flagged all cross-posted content as being canonical (this means that search engines are pointed to the original source for crawling and ranking.) We believe limitations are things of the imagination.
The newer, prettier face of mobile design
Recently, the RD2 website underwent a bit a of a facelift: we made it responsive. When viewing the RD2 website using devices of varying sizes previously, there was a lot of pinching, zooming, panning, and scrolling depending on the device’s screen size. Now, it gracefully scales to the device’s viewport size, creating an overall better user experience (with less pinching/zooming!) The Drive to Discover tour emphasizes being mobile, so we wanted to emphasize this and include it as part of the website. The RD2 developers and design team put their heads together and came up with a design that looks great on many different devices (it loads fast too.) The benefit to the current and future Ford customer base is they are able to have an immersive browsing experience whether they’re at home on the desktop computer, or walking up to a Drive to Discover event.
We’re really excited about the long term implications of our new cross-posting plugin and the flexibility it gives our clients when creating multi-lingual, device independent social properties. Audiences are quickly becoming accustomed to dynamic experiences online that line up across different devices; we feel Drive to Discover addresses the things the audience has come to expect, and in spades. Check out the Drive to Discover microsite, and if you’re a resident of Canada too, visit one of the tour stops for a taste of the latest from Ford and tweet us!
Much thanks to our friends at Sonic Boom for their partnership on this project, they’ve got a truly amazing team!