From Start-to-Launch: CMO by Adobe’s Platform Overhaul and Re-Design
Modernizing a website’s technology and design, at its core, isn’t the easiest task to take on.
Rethinking the strategy of a decade-old website with nearly 3.5 million page views a year is an even bigger project to tackle — especially when overhauling and modernizing an already popular site, and creating a superior user experience and personalization strategy for visitors is of the highest priority.
That’s exactly what Chrisoula Georgatos and her team have done over the past year, as she worked through the platform transformation strategy and user experience for CMO by Adobe. Chrisoula partnered closely with many counterparts throughout the organization, such as creatives, web developers, the CMO editorial team, SEO and analytics professionals, external vendors, and more (it takes a village), to create a new and improved CMO site. The goal: to deliver value to readers through content spanning the topics that are most important to digital leaders while also engaging them with additional viewpoints, product, and solutions that Adobe has to offer.
In an exclusive interview, Chrisoula walks us through the massive undertaking of a website redesign process — from the aha! moments to utilizing Adobe’s internal code base for the first time externally — and what’s next for the evolution of the site.
Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Adobe?
In April 2018, I joined Adobe as a web group product manager within Adobe’s Global Marketing Organization.
My role involves leading the platform strategy and user experience for Adobe’s websites such as CMO by Adobe and the Adobe Blog. This work starts with assessing current user journeys with each site and reimagining the vision for what each site can be to give visitors a richer and more engaging experience.
It also includes assessing technical details starting from where the site is hosted, what content management system is used, how content will be localized for global audiences, and how the technology is tied to our other systems to best provide analytics and personalization to create tailored experiences for user journeys over time.
My role requires collaboration with cross-functional team members spanning program management, creative teams, technical teams, and business stakeholders to ensure alignment on the user experiences we want to create, and on the technologies and processes we will use to do so.
What past projects and experiences helped you with this the redesign?
At the past two companies I worked for, I was involved with the assessment and selection of enterprise marketing solutions for content management, personalization, and analytics — which included evaluating Adobe solutions as well as competitor offerings. We ultimately chose Adobe Experience Cloud products both times.
Having the understanding of the power of Adobe’s technology helped me in creating the vision and strategy for the new version of CMO by Adobe.
Why is CMO making this change? What are the benefits?
With over 3.4 million page views per year, this site has earned its reputation by providing trusted insights, expertise, and inspiration for digital leaders. The content is product-agnostic, focusing only on the trends, challenges, and opportunities that digital leaders face when navigating digital disruption.
However, the site design was last updated in 2016, so it was time to provide visitors with a modernized experience. We also wanted to leverage Adobe’s technology to provide personalized experiences that contextually connect to Adobe’s other web channels like the Adobe Blog, Adobe.com, and Experience League.
By using our new code base, we will also be able to achieve operational benefits with localization, and reuse of components built for Adobe.com.
Can you give us a behind-the-scenes view of the project?
This was a complex and fast-paced project which included in-depth collaboration across several teams. This was especially challenging because it was the first time we leveraged an external agency for all development using our own internal code base. Using the optimized code base required the agency to learn new best practices and guidelines for how code should be built. As such, several “gotchas!” were found through development and we learned quite a bit — like to plan for a period of concentrated onboarding at the start of a project to reduce the learning curve sooner.
The project also involved coordination with our internal teams for instrumentation with personalization and analytics. We also worked with Adobe Managed Services for hosting the new Experience Manager environments and configuring our framework for localization.
What did the planning process look like? How far in advance did you start?
I started analyzing the content and user experience of the legacy CMO site during the first week that I started Adobe. I also analyzed other Adobe sites, such as Adobe Blogs and Adobe.com to determine how the user experience of this site relates to other channels they may visit.
Within a couple of months, I defined my vision for CMO by Adobe and shared it with key stakeholders across global marketing, campaign, and communications stakeholders. I also began discussions with creative team members who had done previous work in rethinking the site’s design.
Once we gained alignment on the site’s new vision, I wrote business requirements for the redesign and began discussions with technical team members. Discussions included whether we should use our internal code base that was created for Adobe.com and if we should use an external agency for development. At the end of September, we determined that our internal code base could be used, and that we would proceed with an external agency for design and development.
By December of 2018, we had an XD prototype of the new site and conducted user testing which provided us with valuable insights from our audience. This type of feedback allows us to optimize different components of the site based on their feedback.
After the design was approved, we moved into a period of on-boarding for development with our internal code base soon after, and official sprint planning for development began at the end of February.
We started our first Agile sprint cycle in March. It took five months of development and quality assurance cycles to finally be ready to launch the new site.
What was top of mind for you when considering a redesign?
Creating a best-in-class user experience was top of mind for me. I wanted this site to feel like a trusted advisor who is genuinely interested in providing visitors accurate and complete information about digital trends that would help them make decisions about digital transformation.
Based on that vision, our technology strategy and design followed.
How is CMO content personalized for our readers?
Personalization is based on leveraging behavioral data as well as other data signals that people bring with them to the site. For example, if a visitor’s browsing behavior indicates more interest in content for a specific role such as marketing or IT, we can tailor content accordingly. We can leverage this knowledge across Adobe.com. This allows for creating seamless user experiences across Adobe-owned channels.
What type of technology are we leveraging with the new CMO site?
We are using Adobe Experience Manager for the management of all of our content on CMO by Adobe and digital assets. Adobe Analytics allows us to view real-time analytics on the site and across other owned channels. Adobe Target allows us to test and optimize experiences based on visitor’s interest, and Adobe Audience Manager helps us to better understand our key audience segments.
Will readers notice a big change between the old site and new one?
From a reader’s perspective, the most noticeable change is the site’s modernized design. The content is also grouped in different top-level sections, such as Customer Experience, Future of Work, Emerging Technology, and Trends.
The content will remain objective, in that articles will be product and company-agnostic. However, there are designated areas which will guide users to more information about Adobe’s point of view and solutions.
Aside from the new design, our domain name is changing from CMO.com to CMO.Adobe.com. We felt that it was important for CMO.com to not feel like an island of its own. We wanted to bring it closer to Adobe.com so that we can better connect customer experiences throughout their digital transformation journeys.
Now that the new site is complete, what’s next?
Well, the redesign may seem complete from the frontend user experience and technology implemented, but this is really just the beginning. Now we go deep into optimization testing for CMO — using Adobe Analytics to look at reader behavior with the site and enhancing it accordingly. There will be A/B tests on the design and article sequencing. We will also translate the site for different languages and provide localized content for different regions.
In addition, all of this work for the CMO redesign is helping us with a similar platform overhaul and new user experience we’ll be executing for our Adobe Blog site next. The strategy and design work were completed in parallel to the development work for CMO. Most of the components built for CMO will also be leveraged for the new Blog site.
Whereas CMO was designed to be “an objective adviser,” the new Adobe Blog site will be very different because it will be the place for all of Adobe’s point of views on product, as well as company information.
Stay tuned for more on that!