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Migrating Weather.com To Drupal: Increased Content Portability

In November, 2014 Weather.com launched on Drupal and became one of the highest trafficked websites in the world to launch on an open-source content management system (CMS). Mediacurrent and Acquia are excited to provide a blog post series that will share insight around how Weather.com was migrated to Drupal. Our team of experts will share best practices and what lessons we learned during the project.

Weather can't wait. Consumers need to access weather information everywhere, on any device. For The Weather Channel, the challenge was finding a way to deliver content rapidly with rich media elements such as videos, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and different-sized images.

The Weather Channel needed its content to be consumable on every kind of device. However, they serve 15 million page views per day to 30 million unique visitors per month. Content delivery would quickly spiral into a nightmare unless they got their delivery mechanisms under control. This was key in The Weather Channel's decision to migrate to Drupal.

Mediacurrent, an Acquia partner, worked along with Acquia to take on this major project. The first hurdle was automatically delivering varied content to their four most common content consumption channels:

  • Desktop
  • iPad
  • Smartphone / Native apps
  • Web service feed for next-generation devices like gas station screens or wearables

On a desktop, Weather.com articles launch a video as part of the story. On an iPad, there is greater variability in connection speeds and available space. Speed is everything because the consumer has a million choices for weather information. In a few swipes, the user can jump to another site that loads instantly. Instead of loading a video with the story, Weather.com might want to display a large image with a link to the video.

For mobile users coming to Weather.com, the stories would need smaller images with a faster load time. There would be no image at all on the web services feed. The Weather Channel needed their content delivery systems to handle all four output mechanisms sourced from a single piece of content. This would reduce the overhead required to support multiple platforms and increase content reuse.

One of the first changes that the developers made was adapting the WYSIWYG editor so that content creators could simply drop in image tokens. Those tokens weren't tied to the layout, so the video or still image would adjust and appear in various locations on different devices or browsers. The tokens were created to be very generic rather than looking like videos in the editor specifically so that the content creator didn't attempt to layout the page in anticipation of seeing a video in that spot.

When the content creator selects each token, they get a popup allowing them to specify all the details about that particular media element. For example, they can add a YouTube video, change the title and describe it in detail. When the content is rendered as an article, the token displays the YouTube video on a desktop, a large image could be displayed on an iPad, and potentially a smaller image on an iPhone and just a link in the web service feed.

That's only part of how Mediacurrent and Acquia helped The Weather Channel reach their goal of “write once, use anywhere.” The next part involved the creation of a pluggable module for creating widgets on the front-end, but that's a story for another day.

Additional Resources

Migrating Weather.com To Drupal: The Presentation Framework | Mediacurrent Blog Post
Q & A with Weather.com | Mediacurrent Video
10 Reasons Enterprise Marketers Choose Drupal | Mediacurrent Blog Post

Matt Davis

Meet team member, Matt Davis

Matt is a long time Drupal developer and avid outdoorsman living in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. He has been working with Drupal since 2003 and has been a...

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