Smart Meetings is the leading media company and the most trusted resource for meeting professionals in the meetings industry. Providing best-in-class service, Smart Meetings publishes cutting-edge meetings content in print and digital magazines, hosts world-class networking events, provides thought-leading and interactive webinars, offers a complimentary site-selection service and offers a myriad of digital resources.
Smart Meetings pioneered the widely-celebrated one-on-one hosted buyer program and has become the most effective media company to connect meeting professionals with premier hotels and destinations.
We got in touch with them in early 2015 regarding a website migration from a custom platform built on top of Zend Framework to WordPress, rebuilding their theme to a responsive and clean layout, breaking their content down to over a dozen post types for different types of information, transferring their custom search tools to WordPress plugins and integrating several 3rd party systems.
Our Business Process
We led several detailed discovery sessions with the management team behind Smart Meetings and a technical consultant who was also in charge with the previous platforms. Over the first two weeks we analyzed the existing platform and went through a detailed exploration of the custom database structure.
The initial relaunch had to happen in two months- building the WordPress platform, migrating close to 100,000 different data entries (excluding media and comments) and building a unique design with their main toolkit, which was followed by a development retainer plan for ongoing development and bringing more functional and UX additions to the platform.
DevriX allocated 6 team members for the project migration – a technical lead responsible for the infrastructure migration, deployments and team work, two back-end engineers responsible for the database migration, one more WordPress developer building the custom search, communication and integration plugins and a front-end engineer who converted the designs to a responsive WordPress theme.
Migrating the original database to WordPress was challenging, but our team has previously migrated various proprietary and custom solutions to WordPress, including .NET and Python platforms, in addition to other custom PHP solutions. We started with a large spreadsheet defining each type of data existing in
Some of the main challenges that we take on were:
- Defining a concurrent process that allowed 3-4 people to work on migrations simultaneously
- Migrating close to a hundred thousand entries to WordPress, alongside with users, comments, and media
- Changing the users database and reassigning new users to old entries based on various criteria
- Moving hundreds of thousands of media files to WordPress attachments and replacing them in existing posts
- Excluding certain posts from the index for internal use (role management)
- Running complicated queries defining which entries should go to different post types
- Changing date formats to a new format
Our team ran hundreds of tests with sample data and test snippets from the original database in order to find the right algorithm. We broke down the migration script into multiple sequential iterations, allowing to revert a given step in case of a mapping error and running the ID mapping or attachment allocation tasks either consecutively between steps, or as additional patches once the entire platform had been migrated.
Building Maps and Search Engines
Smart Meetings has two maps with location listings for their Destinations and Venues. We have built two WordPress extensions for map and listing support, fetching data from custom taxonomies, building the indices and pointing the map areas to the proper locations.
Each single page connected to the index or the map points to an archive page filtered by the destination or location. Featured entries are listed on top of the archive page with a pagination that allows for navigating to the remaining entries. The Venue Finder also includes an additional set of filters for venue name, location (country, state and city), number of rooms, capacity of the meeting space, and a long list of amenities.
Events organized by Smart Meetings and partners are featured in a custom landing page – displaying the closest event by date, three categories of event types and an AJAX filter for future events, followed by previous events.
We have implemented various filters for events with a number of custom fields for searching and filtering, building a tabbed view with photos, contact details, relevant events and entries from the magazine, and the dynamic layout that runs the event management page.
SEO and URL mapping
During the database migration we had to do a number of replaces in order to fit some of WordPress’s requirements. Some outdated slugs was adjusted as well and fetched from additional fields from the original schema.
Since the original site supported several different permalink types, our lead engineer built a rewrite engine with over 30 different 301 rules, mapping the original links to the new system and extending the rewrite API that support the following URL structure across the site:
Tags have been heavily utilized, together with several featured tag filters, listing tailored data from different post types.
Smart Meeting’s monthly issue has been integrated in the new website as well. We have migrated the original data from the old database and mapped it through magazine issues and magazine articles in the new one, featuring a landing page with the latest issue on top, listing all main categories and linking to several featured entries from each category.
A magazine archive widget has been implemented, allowing for browsing old magazine issues with their respective featured content as well.
The new design was converted to a brand new WordPress theme with a unique and powerful home page, 15 page templates and multiple archives, integrating recent posts, two types of comments, several sidebars for different page templates and a dynamic footer.
During the development phase our team did actively work on 6 different servers – two development ones for migration and data applications, two servers for the old site and two for the new one. We worked closely with Smart Meetings defining criteria for the new platform, integrating multiple caching engines, the rewrite APIs and additional tools on a server level that led to the successful database migration. During the development retainer now we utilize our toolset for monitoring traffic and data consumption, analyzing logs, optimizing data space and implementing optimizations for the smooth website experience.