Written by Andy
Multi-site: exploring the Craft CMS super power
At Pepper Digital we love complex content and brand challenges. And many of them can be solved by taking advantage of the way Craft CMS can run multiple sites. It enables you to quickly launch new sites leveraging existing functionality, simplify your content management, streamline your editorial flows, and even save some budget too.
We’ve developed and experimented with a wide range of different multi-site setups over the years for large and small businesses alike. This kind of set up is attractive for a few reasons:
- It’s easy to publish content such as articles and case studies across multiple websites.
- You only have one website codebase to maintain and stay on top of.
- Each site can have its own look and feel and templates.
- New functionality developed for one site is then available in the other related sites – saving a huge amount of duplicated development (which is no fun).
- The content editor can manage all the websites in one control panel (with granular permissions if needed).
What kind of sites are we talking about? The examples below hopefully should get you thinking about how you could make use of this kind of set up.
Catering for different languages is perhaps the most obvious use. At its most basic each page of a website is made available in a number of languages. Usually, you would expect a direct translation of the page content as well as anything that is part of the overall interface.
However, we’ve found that many clients opt for a more nuanced approach to translation. For example, when publishing an article they may choose to only publish in one language for speed, and release translations as they are completed. Or vary how the content is presented based on the language.
There is a difference between a website simply offering the content in a different language and a website starting to localise content that happens to be in a different language.
One of the fun aspects of catering to different languages is how the length or content or navigational elements varies between languages. This is something that needs to be taken into account during the design and planning phase to ensure the shiny new website also works when you need to translate it into German!
Another good use of a multi-site set up is for companies with a catalogue of brands requiring a targeted website but needing to ensure there is consistency across the portfolio.
Or perhaps a product has different brand names in different markets requiring variation in media assets, translations, and localisation of content. We recently helped Budweiser Budvar in the planning of their brand portal localisation using Craft CMS.
More often than not, the type of content and functionality is similar across the brand sites. So it makes sense to build once, and then share across the sites. A key benefit is that when new functionality is added, it can be made available to all the respective sites.
For example, one of the older setups still going strong is a 7-site setup for Lucideon, a leading materials testing and consultancy, to allow them to target different industries using secondary brands.
From the marketeers and content editors' perspective, being able to access all the sites from one control panel makes life much easier.
The way groups structures and presents the family of companies varies enormously. Some groups run a decentralised approach with each subsidiary company having its own brand identity and target market. Or alternatively the companies share a visual identity across the trading names.
Either way, running the subsidiary companies from one Craft CMS setup is still an attractive solution. It allows the marketeers, especially if there is a centralised team, to easily manage the content and updates across multiple company sites in one place and share investment in the website design and build.
Often the companies within a group collaborate together on larger projects. This means they often share case studies and news articles. Instead of creating a project case study multiple times across the various company websites, a single master version is created and shared dynamically across the websites that want to include it. If a company wants to adjust the focus for when it is displayed on their site, localising it with the same entry in the CMS is then also possible.
Going up a level, the main group website can then showcase the work across all the subsidiary companies by also showcasing the best of the work.
Localised sites by country, region or town
Sometimes a single site with a location section is not enough. This is particularly useful for companies with physical locations, such as a shop, restaurant or storage site . This allows the company to focus on what is most relevant to the local audience and also optimise the set up from an SEO perspective.
This kind of localisation is also likely to be combined with language options for certain sites.
Member only microsites
This is particularly useful to member associations or organisations that provide added value content or sell access to content. Typically in this kind of setup there will be a main website that is used as the shopfront offering a wide range of public-facing content. This is key for engaging new people and building up your SEO.
However, depending on the type of organisation, you may need one or more websites that members access via their own account with gated content. This might be resources, events, tools or key industry data needed by members to do their jobs. This was key to the success of the mix of sites we created for LBMA.
If there is one thing we’ve learnt, it’s there are no two member organisations alike when it comes to how they engage with their audiences and how they monetise their offering.
Over the years we’ve created hundreds of campaign landing pages. Marketeers want to be able to respond quickly, phase the release of content, and adapt based on learnings.
The reality is also that budgets are often tight per campaign. We’ve found that pooling the available resource into a multi-site set up allows the marketeers to build out new campaigns with ease and refine existing campaigns based on feedback and analytics.
I hope these ideas will get you thinking about the possibilities and how multi-site could apply to your business online.
Nomura Connects is a good example of a site with localised translation. It serves a global audience with an English version and a locally targeted Japanese translation which has a more focused number of articles. To make it easy for the large content team, some editors can post to both versions and some only one. This then also allows a multilingual editor to pick up an existing article and publish in the Japanese site once translated. You can read more about this site in our case study write up here.
We recently completed the roll out a multi-site solution for Morgan Lovell and Overbury who are part of the same group. This has allowed us to evolve both of these sites in tandem through the shared templates and base functionality.
And to end, you can of course combine all these types of setups. Step up LBMA – working with marketing team we combined multi-language, multi-company, member-only, and campaign sites all into one Craft CMS set up.