October 24, 2019
Ep. #48, Dynamic Static Sites with Shalom Volchok of Digital Optimization Group
In episode 48 of JAMstack Radio, Brian speaks with Shalom Volchok, CEO & Co-Founder of Digital Optimization Group. They discuss Shalom’s b...
On September 28, 2017, Heavybit member company Contentful hosted their second San Francisco User Meetup in the Heavybit clubhouse. Find videos of each of the talks from the evening below, as well as a deeper look at the talk by Brad Taylor, senior front end engineer at Optimizely, from Contentful’s Carolyn Stransky. His talk—“Building Your Site Through Experimentation”—covered how testing and experimentation will boost your business, including tips on implementing experiments through customized assets and localization.
Before Optimizely, experimentation was something that only the big players could afford, with companies like Netflix and Facebook dominating the scene. Brad mentioned that “the numbers are pretty staggering” between companies that do online experiments and those who don’t. That’s why Optimizely provides resources for businesses to deliver A/B testing and personalization, as well as the developer tools to make it happen.
Earlier in April, Optimizely incorporated Contentful as the data layer of their technology stack. Because of this, Brad’s team was able to break down their existing content inventory spreadsheet into manageable components. These components ranged from entire landing pages to individual CTAs, and included options for page-level customization. Updating content went from a 30-minute deployment to a nearly real-time process.
With an expanding global reach, localization quickly became a top priority for Optimizely. But while changing z’s to s’s for their Australian office was simple enough, they ran into complications when rolling out regional websites. Because that required both porting existing content into a different language and the ability to create language-specific content.
Their solution? Clever content-modeling and a new UI extension. “What we came up with was just a checkbox,” Brad said, chuckling. “We said ‘do you want this content in English or [other language]’… and we updated our queries to support that. This allows for not only being able to localize individual fields, but because we’re using [components], we could use completely different layouts as well.” Brad pointed out that the key to tackling this challenge was flexible content structure and a native UI Extension SDK that Contentful provides to all its customers.
Optimizely had a lot to consider when setting up their integration with Contentful. They work with businesses across industries, each with their own vertical and target metrics. Brad needed to find a way for a user to set up an experiment in Contentful and have it automatically generate in Optimizely.
Building a series of UI extensions was the logical choice. This is because they allow you to take an API-centric product like Contentful, and natively integrate it into your web app. This way Brad and his team could set up a content model and process that enables users to create, run, and view experiments directly in Contentful web app, without adding a single line of code to the website. Brad showcased these capabilities during his live demo.
Many business users started off thinking of Contentful is a niche tool, but Brad pointed out that it can power a whole range of use cases. At the time of this recording, roughly 70% of Optimizely’s marketing site had been migrated and localized using Contentful. These included a series of microsites (for instance, a maturity model assessment), and a new Academy page. Moving forward, Optimizely plans to complete their content migration and sunset their old codebase. Additionally, they will continue build and open source more UI extensions that address a wider variety of use cases.
Bill Brinkert is a software engineer at AKQA. Previously, Bill worked as a lighting director and special effects specialist for Blue Man Group, and freelanced as a lighting designer and production designer for various events.
The recent new major release of Gatsby, a blazing-fast React.js website framework, introduced the new ability to pull data from any source with built-in transformation of data e.g. markdown to html. There’s now a full-featured Gatsby/Contentful integration that makes it very easy to build websites with Contentful and React. This talk by Kyle Mathews will introduce Gatsby and how you can use it to build fast & powerful sites using Contentful and React.