DC Entertainment is home to the iconic brands DC Comics, Vertigo, and MAD Magazine. Along with chronicling the adventures of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and many more, DC houses the creative division charged with strategically integrating its content across Warner Bros. Entertainment and Time Warner.
Since our initial engagement in 2012 for a multi-site Drupal installation, DC Entertainment and its management team at Warner Bros. has relied on Metal Toad to develop and continually improve upon their entire web ecosystem.
Enterprise Multi-Site Content Management
Alongside our brilliant design partners at Sisu, Metal Toad was chosen to help DC Entertainment build four wholly separate websites that could be managed from a single location by a single business unit. The enterprise-class sites for DC Comics, Vertigo, MAD Magazine, and DC Entertainment Corporate had been separate for far too long and the executive leadership team no longer wanted the overhead associated with relying on multiple admins in multiple locations to publish content.
A mutual in-depth discovery with Sisu uncovered DC's desire for a customized admin experience with an eye on future flexibility and scalability. They required an open-source solution that would continue to let them reinvest their budget instead of spending it on proprietary licensing fees. Drupal was the prime candidate for a content management system (CMS) that allowed for a secure, wholly-owned platform.
Metal Toad enabled the DC Team to manage all content across the four sites from a single unified interface while incorporating a thorough brand redesign. The Drupal admin experience was custom tailored to team needs, creating the ideal platform for multi-year iteration. In sum, modules geared towards utility and business needs power DC’s Drupal core and the Metal Toad team is constantly consulting with all of DC's business units on future enhancements.
Not only does the DC team enjoy increased efficiency by having a single system for staff to learn and manage, but that unity also communicates a single look and feel to their international customer base.
Third-Party System Integration
DC Entertainment’s enterprise sites experience the joys and burdens of high global visibility.
Before contacting Sisu and Metal Toad, DC's current site failed to adequately handle customers’ purchase demands. Something had to be done on their new Drupal platform to enable purchase of their multitude of products available in several formats through multiple channels. The existing SaaS solution was fundamentally inadequate.
Early on, it was clear that this project would be ongoingly agile and the discovery phase would be iterative inside all five sprints. With Sisu's designs now in place, Metal Toad quickly uncovered new API features and unexpected testing complications. In true superhero fashion, Metal Toad uncovered a superhuman solution.
This solution began by generating an Admin Upload section in Drupal's backend for products to be uploaded in bulk. This helped ease the management burden associated with their vast product catalog.
Next, on each product page, Metal Toad introduced a Purchase Bar showing the price and availability status and, if the buyer elects to purchase, a collapsable window revealing all available purchase formats: print, digital, or Find a Store. If the buyer chooses to buy the product from a local vendor, the Find a Store button (along with their zip code) directs them to Comicshoplocator.com, where multiple options for comic stores near the buyer are listed. Alternatively, the buyer can choose an independent bookstore using the same process and be taken to Indiebound.org.
DC Entertainment had been looking for a solution to expand the reach of its site to its network of vendors. Not only did Metal Toad’s solution positively impact this initial aim, but DC Entertainment’s product and purchase paths became far more manageable as well.
As you might imagine, the streamlined purchase functionality has resulted in increased web traffic, sales conversion, and revenue for the DC business team. Leveraging the power of a fully functional, open-source e-commerce platform can take any enterprise web ecosystem to superhero status.
Open-Source SaaS Replacement
As the long-term technological partner for DC Entertainment, Metal Toad was initially brought in to consult on which SaaS application would help DC readers consume product on both desktop and mobile. The DC marketing team needed to integrate an online comic reader into their web ecosystem to provide:
- Event-based new releases,
- Digital-format order fulfillment, and,
- A quality reading experience to deepen brand engagement and a variety of other benefits to build brand goodwill.
The reader had to be responsive and optimized for easy, on-the-go user entertainment. Period. No exceptions.
When discovery was undertaken, Metal Toad narrowed potential solutions to a single existing SaaS product that was built for just this purpose. It incorporated much of the requisite functionality and had a workable user experience. Unfortunately, the solution came with an expensive license and, if DC ever wanted to move off the platform, they would be locked into a contract and face a difficult migration. This ran counter to many of the business aims of DC Entertainment, so they reengaged Metal Toad to build an open-source solution that they could own outright for as long as the technology could be supported.
The solution was simple: offer all the same features of the existing, best-of-breed SaaS solution in a DC-owned software platform with selected upgrades for an enhanced experience.
Multiple viewing options — side-by-side, subframe, and dual-page views — were at the core of the ideal user interface. Animations were needed to move from frame-to-frame and pane-to-pane smoothly; but all this would be pointless if the load times on mobile and tablet devices were too slow. A scalable — and very clever — caching solution was installed to allow for near-zero load time between views, and the project's next step introduced a desktop-optimized reader to complement the mobile and tablet experience.
Due to the vast amount of copyrighted content at stake, piracy needed to be a top priority when constructing the solution. Highly-secure architecture preventing unlawful distribution of DC products was of utmost importance. To do this, Metal Toad integrated the comic reader within DC’s main site and utilized many of the security features that had been built throughout the long-standing partnership with DC’s web properties.
Additionally, Metal Toad incorporated Livefyre's SocialSync feature, a social platform that allowed for comments and social sharing across the enterprise. Metal Toad engineers made the comic reader’s metadata accessible to the DC marketing team in order to provide long-term metrics to measure success criteria against the group’s business goals.
On-time delivery of the reader was met with market applause! Upon launch, the DC readership jumped right in and began sharing their experiences online. The comic reader introduced a whole new chapter in DC’s online enterprise product marketing, and as for the DC business team, they now have a reader free from licensing costs and a long-term technological partner in Metal Toad who is constantly exploring what is possible for DC’s brand.