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A tale of Digital Transformation at Acercando Naciones

Jonatan Salas

25 December, 2018 - 5 min read

During this year, with the BlackBox Vision team, we began to face a process of digital transformation in Acercando Naciones.

Brief Introduction

Acercando Naciones is an organization in Argentina whose main focus is diplomacy and the generation of spaces to access privileged knowledge.

They have a news site that brings together articles on diplomacy, culture and business in Argentina and the world.

The problem to solve

Like any company, many times, the growth of it causes to lose focus.

Their website was a true reflection of this, they felt that they had lost their identity and that they needed to recover it.

That is how they contacted us asking for a complete redesign of their site with a focus more oriented to the news of diplomacy.

How everything used to work?

First we had to understand their work process, that way we could close a model, and understand the flaws in it.

Their site was a WordPress with a purchased theme, this was the product of a previous redesign with another Digital Agency a few years ago.

This is a screenshot of how their site used to be:

Old Site

The screenshot was taken from wayback machine.

Taking the previous technical decisions

After understanding the failures we made a series of technical decisions in this regard that were the following ones:

  • We would continue to use WordPress, but, as a headless CMS. For content editing, the new WordPress editor, Gutenberg, would be used
  • We would move the hosting to another platform that wasn’t Neolo, in our case, we ended up deciding to go for Digital Ocean
  • We would develop the site from scratch, splitting the development phase and projects into frontend, micro services and workers
  • The technologies that we would use would be React and Nextjs for the frontend, node and express for the micro services and node for the workers
  • All the applications that we would made would be deployed using Gitlab CI/CD pipelines to a cluster made in K8S, using Traefik to balance the load, and finally NGINX as a cache layer over the requests instead of Varnish
  • Analyzing infrastructure costs

As mentioned above, we decided to move from Neolo, to Digital Ocean, we had to define how much the infrastructure would cost monthly.

Currently in Neolo, they paid annually for a single machine that exposed everything to the internet about 12 thousand Argentine pesos.

It was defined that we were going to use the following Digital Ocean products:

  • 3 droplets whose cost was 5 dollars each one
  • 1 droplet whose cost was 20 dollars each one
  • 1 backup whose cost was 5 dollars per droplet

We end up closing the infrastructure at a cost of 40 dollars per month.

Annually they would be about paying 480 dollars, translated into Argentine pesos having 1 dollar at the value of 38 Argentine pesos, the annual cost would be 18 thousand Argentine pesos.

Facing the redesign

After several meetings, we started working on redesign proposals, we took as inspiration several sites including Google News, Material-UI, and SFR Presse.

In the meetings that we faced, it was decided to keep the same color palette, but to use it in a way that doesn’t highlight colors so much over content, which was one of the problems they had with the previous design.

We defined that we were going to continue Material Design as a design specification for the new site. Obviously we weren’t going to follow such a purist implementation, but we were going to leave our mark on the redesign.

Here you can see some screenshots of the final redesign:


Detail Page

HashTag Page

Category Page

Newsletter Page

Section Page

Videos Page

Starting the development phase

As expected, after the redesign was finished, we started to plan how the development process was going to be.

In general, we handle all our developments through agile methodologies. Silvana Rojo, our PM, and I were in charge of defining the scope of development.

Our idea was to be able to close an MVP that contemplates the functionalities that they wanted, and that in turn gave us the adequate time to achieve it.

After the planning, we had defined 12 sprints of two weeks each. The first sprint was more associated with technical definitions on my part, documentation, structure of repositories, infrastructure and pipelines development. The other sprints were 100 percent oriented towards developing components and features.

Matias Mendoza and Manuel Tuero were in charge of the development of the components and the features for the frontend app, while I was in charge of the development of the core APIs, and the workers.

At the end of each sprint we exposed the progress of the development with the people of Acercando Naciones so that they could give us feedback, and in turn they also helped us to find bugs.

After 6 months of feature development, iterations, and bug resolutions, we were able to close our MVP.

Getting to production

It was time to get into production after arduous months of work. Before reaching production, we had to make a migration of the WordPress content that they had in their infrastructure, to the WordPress of the new infrastructure that we had developed for them.

We worked for 2 weeks more to close the migration of the articles and their adaptation to the new content editor.

We migrated a total of 17,000 articles, and 8,000 of them were turned into Gutenberg content. Unfortunately this process of converting the articles to Gutenberg had to be manual.

Once the migration was finished, we take out the new site on a Saturday at midnight, we decided to go for a weekend because it was the time when there was less traffic. The exact date was Saturday, November 12.

Learned lessons

As expected, there are always things we learn after having made a project together, in our case, some of the shortcomings were related to planning and how we spent time on tasks, we had more loaded sprints and others less loaded. But hey, the important thing is to learn and grow.

Despite these by minors, we arrived with the dates and the development that we did leave us happy, not only to us, but also to the entire Acercando Naciones team.

Getting a customer to be happy with a product developed, in general, is something difficult to achieve. We believe that we are going in a good direction.

We invite you to see the site we develop here.

Jonatan Salas

Co-Founder and CEO at BlackBox Vision.

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