Case Study: GraphCMS and Travel Weekly

A modern approach to high-volume publishing for the hospitality industry with a Headless CMS for News & Publications

Case Study: GraphCMS and Travel Weekly

We love GraphCMS as we think it is one of the (if not THE) best headless CMS on the market ... in the last 18 months we've seen amazing progress and we could not be more thrilled how it is going.

Imre Nagy
Imre NagyHead of Technology

The Company:

Jacobs Media Group owns a variety of leading UK hospitality publishing brands including trusted brands like Travel Weekly and the Caterer. Travel Weekly, started in 1969, is an authority in the hospitality sector in the UK keeping readers informed on the latest trends, giving travelers more information on exciting destinations, sharing the latest news in the industry, and providing travel agencies tips on how to market to the latest trends. The Caterer is the largest hospitality magazine in the UK giving analysis on the industry, monthly reviews of restaurants, spotlights of important players in the industry. The Caterer highlights the work of some of the most notable British chefs, from Gordon Ramsay to Jamie Oliver to Mary Berry. With around 400,000 monthly visitors for Travel Weekly alone, the Jacobs Media Group was limited by an overly complicated tech stack and an outdated approach to content management.

The Case:

The Jacobs Media Group decided it was time to reevaluate their approach to their tech stack, including their approach to content management, and create a better performing website, but the team was faced with the dilemma of whether to try to improve on old systems or create a new tech stack. Previous development teams created a plethora of systems that did not consider mobile-friendliness, SEO optimization, and used technology which was not suitable for their use case. As each development team attempted to create their own version of a CMS for new projects or updated a previous version of the homebrew CMS. The team was working with the sixth iteration of the tech stack and had chosen to build their own CMS which quickly became cumbersome and time-consuming to maintain.

The new development team, headed by Imre Nagy, aimed to create a resilient tech stack that would focus on optimizing the frontend and security. It was clear that the team needed to move away from a homebrew system and instead find a reliable, flexible headless CMS which would take away the trouble of having to maintain an outdated homebrew system. The previous website, which was not optimized to be performant, had a Pagespeed Insights score close to 0. It was clear that the new website needed to be built with modern and resilient technology which would lead to a better performing site.

In evaluating a headless CMS for their project, there were a couple of drivers that were essential to the team. The new system must be extremely flexible, reliable, have easy onboarding for the technical team, and be fairly priced. GraphCMS checked all of the boxes for their team and fit the needs of the use case.

The Project:

GraphCMS is just one part of the totally redesigned modern architecture to create a much more performant website. Travel Weekly began the lengthy task of creating the new architecture which included a homebrew database and middleware that pushed the data to the newly designed website. The team chose to host the architecture on AWS and build using the LAMP stack technologies. GraphCMS interacts directly with this core application that relays information from the CMS to be stored in Travel Weekly’s database application.

GraphCMS is used primarily as a way for editors to have access to the 100,000 articles that are stored in their GraphCMS projects and continue to add content to the website. The developers set up the schemas for the various brands and gave the content editing teams a brief onboarding. From there, the team of nearly 40 content editors was able to add content, upload assets, modify wording, and style the content exactly as they please.

The Travel Weekly team was able to cut their development drastically using GraphCMS. Previously, projects required 4-5 months to get off the ground. Now with GraphCMS, this process just takes several weeks. This streamlined approach to architecture has freed the development team from having to maintain the CMS and focus on more deployments, which can now be done multiple times a day rather than only when absolutely necessary. With the new highly optimized tech stack, their Page Speed Insights have jumped to 90 on desktop, a significant improvement from before.

Why GraphCMS:

GraphCMS allowed the team to get up and running quickly. The ability to build the basic website structure through schema building quickly and effectively in GraphCMS was one of the stand-out features. GraphCMS required very little onboarding for the technical team; schema building struck the perfect balance of the required functionality without needing workarounds and embracing the truly headless mindset. This saved the development team a lot of time as they no longer had to build and maintain a CMS but could focus their energies on building the core application.

As the team continued to work with GraphCMS, they were impressed by the high velocity of new features and development that went into the application. When the Travel Weekly team requested new features, a common response was that that particular feature was already in development and would be released soon. Over the two years that Travel Weekly has been working with GraphCMS, this pace has been maintained and the customer support of the GraphCMS team has continued to be excellent.

The content editors have gained much-needed independence and flexibility. While new team members do require brief onboarding, they are now able to totally customize their content where they were previously limited to minimal styling choices. Content can now be formatted and styled the way that the content teams see fit. GraphCMS balanced robust features and functionality with a simple, straightforward UI which improved development times and gave the content team more freedom and flexibility.

Benefits of GraphCMS:

  • The content team has more independence and flexibility. They are no longer limited to minor styling or developer availability.

  • The great user experience when building the project schema; GraphCMS finds the sweet spot between having the necessary functionality and being overly opinionated on how to build the schema

  • Simple, straightforward UI which requires very little onboarding for new users

  • Fast response and resolution times with the customer support team


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