Why Host.it used Joomla to rebuild its corporate website
During December 2021, Host.it, a major hosting service provider in Italy, published its new website made in Joomla 4. Let’s dig more into their “adventure with Joomla 4” talking with their CEO, Marco Mangione.
How did it start?
It all started when Joomla 4 was still into the Beta phases, during summer, last year.
For years, the Marketing Team of Host.it struggled to reduce the “time to market” when building new pages on the company’s website, given the need to involve the R&D Team to develop every new page.
Having a R&D Team composed by Java developers meant that also the company’s website was developed in JSP (Java Server Page); this had some benefits, being “coupled” with the company’s core system, but had also some drawbacks, with a high time-to-market for every change/update in the website and the lack of performance. Just think that fixing a typo in a webpage needed a release of the whole core software of the company, that included also the website.
Which were the goals of the project and why did you use Joomla?
We wanted to be faster and more agile, with a more modern website.
Then we identified the following goals:
- Reduce the time needed to change / update the pages of our website
- Reduce the “development cost” of new web pages
- Increase the website speed
- Increase the Search Engine Optimization of the website.
Then, given the internal experience with Joomla and the fact that we’ve sponsored the Italian Joomla Community since its beginning, we thought that the release of Joomla 4 would have been the right moment to start our adventure rebuilding our corporate website.
We have several people able to build and manage Joomla websites in our company. And of course Luca wouldn’t have allowed us to choose other CMSs.
Also we have other public facing website as well as intranet websites based on Joomla, so it a “natural choice”.
Joomla 4 is also future proof for us, given that it handles multilingual content within the core and will help us in our internationalization path.
Which were the challenges?
The project brought with it several challenges:
- Change the website without changing it
- A faster and modern website
- Complex layout without page builders
- Keep the position
Change the website without changing it
It appears like a “nonsense”, but we wanted to change the technology under the hood of the website, without letting users notice.
So the first goal (and challenge) was to develop a new website that looked almost identical to the previous one, but with Joomla 4 instead of JSP.
We started from scratch, right after the announcement that Joomla 4 would have adopted Bootstrap 5, involving two well-known Italian extensions developers: Marco Biagioni and Alessandro Chessari.
They started designing a new template based on Cassiopeia that looked identical to the previous Host.it website.
This obviously required a huge CSS and JS customization, but the result is simply perfect.
A faster and modern website
Performances are now really crucial for every website and they are even more important for an hosting company… how could we claim our hosting services as fast if our website isn’t fast?
Then one of the major goals was to have a website template/structure that achieved at least 90% on Google PageSpeed Insight Tests. And we’ve made it! Obviously there should be a balance between performance and features that you need to have, and we think to have reached an acceptable middle ground.
Here are the screenshots of how the website performed before (JSP) and after (Joomla 4).
Complex Layouts without Page Builders
One of the easiest temptations is to use a template framework or a page builder to quickly and easily build complex layouts and design the pages of the website. This would have for sure shortened the page development time, but using a page builder/layout builder would have created a kind of “vendor lock-in” and would have impacted the performance of the website.
So we decided to use Modules and we identified several custom modules that Marco and Alessandro developed for us, including:
- A module to lookup for domain availability
- A module to calculate custom quotes for services
- A module to show the reasons why to buy certain products
- And several other modules with custom style
This allowed us to reproduce the exact look & feel of the previous website.
The “Module-centric” approach allowed us to reuse the same module type several times for the various pages.
Keep the position
A major challenge was represented by the minimization of the impact of the migration. We needed to import all the pages of the previous website, but also we integrated on the main site also the Blog (with over 300 articles), removing the separate WordPress instance that served the blog over the years.
This caused of course a massive change into the URL structure of the website and we had to map every single URL of the website and create all the 301 redirect, using a huge .htaccess file.
After publishing the website, another core feature of Joomla helped a lot: Redirects. This allowed us to quickly identify broken links that triggered 404 errors and easily create redirects directly within the Joomla backend.
This allowed us to minimize the impacts of the migration on the Search Engine position.
Which extensions did you use? Was it hard to find them for Joomla 4?
Beyond the custom developed modules, we used:
- Akeeba Backup: to make on-the-fly backup copies of the website while working on it.
- GDPR by J!ExtensionsStore: to manage cookie mapping and users preferences, complying with Privacy regulations
- OSmap: to generate an XML sitemap for the Google Search Console.
- Phoca OpenGraph: to manage the OpenGraph tags for the website.
- LiteSpeed Cache: to unleash the power of the LiteSpeed fast cache offered by the server.
We tried to reduce the number of needed extensions to the minimum number possible.
Which operating stack did you use?
Obviously we used our top hosting service product, a dedicated cloud hosting for the website.
Our website uses:
- LiteSpeed Cache as front-end caching system, that staticizes the pages of the website, reducing its loading time.
- Redis as backend caching system, thanks to the Joomla integrated support for such technology.
Thanks for sharing your case study, Marco. We're glad that Joomla 4 represented the go-to solution for your new website.
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What a great case study for Joomla! 4.
As someone looking at migrating a corporate website from Joomla 3 this case study strengthens my case for remaining with Joomla - made more influential in that Host.IT have expertise in "other" CMS platforms.
What is most appealing is their desire to harness the potential of the core template and functionality of Joomla therefore reducing the dependence on third party extensions.
A must read for decision makers - this addresses some of the nitty gritty stuff people want to know.
Thanks to everyone involved for this to the point, real life, implementation case study.