Our collaboration with the PlayBac Presse team started in February 2017 when the publisher needed to revamp all of its websites (eight websites in total, for the publications Le Petit Quotidien, Mon Quotidien, L’ACTU, L’ÉCO, My Little Weekly, My Weekly, Meine Woche, and Mi Semanal). The previous versions of the sites were from 2011 (for the oldest of them) and used the Symfony 1 CMS.
ABOUT PLAYBAC PRESSE
PlayBac is one of the top publishers for youth in France and is totally unique in this sector. PlayBac revolutionized the world of youth publishing by inventing Les Incollables in 1987 – fun study sheets with questions and answers, consistent with the school curriculum for each year group.
Along with this success, starting in 1995, PlayBac began publishing daily newspapers for children. These include Le Petit Quotidien for children 6–10 years old, Mon Quotidien for children 10-13 years old, and L’ACTU for 13-18-year-olds. These were also a big success, with each newspaper having tens of thousands of subscribers per year.
THE CHALLENGE: IMPLEMENT THE AGILE METHOD
We had to design and develop a new platform for the websites on desktop computers and mobile devices within six months, all while introducing the agile method at PlayBac Presse.
The launch date for all of the websites-August 23, 2017-was non-negotiable because it had to correspond with the normal period for subscription campaigns for the various newspapers. Every year, back-to-school time is the key period for inviting parents to buy their children subscriptions to these high-quality publications.
The basis for the new platform was an innovative solution: offer a news feed for each newspaper website. Presenting news in a feed is particularly suited to the habits of young audiences.
We applied the agile method from end to end of the process. The first phase was three weeks of “discovery”, which allowed us to define the top UX and UI aspects, to specify the technical constraints related to the existing platform, and to organize our work. A project team, made up of half PlayBac Presse developers and half Pentalog developers, was put together.
The challenge for the first phase was to get everyone, from marketing to technical staff, on board with the agile method. From the onset of the design period, daily updates or “scrums” were organized. Development sprints lasted two weeks. The agile method also allows us to adapt to new constraints that can arise during a project, amending and improving on your initial concept.
While an initial budget estimate is given, it is the allocation of the team that determines billing. It quickly becomes apparent what scope of functions can be developed with the team in the time given.
Constantly monitoring the team’s production capacity prevents frustrations from arising at the end of the project. The client is constantly involved in making choices and does not wait until the end of the project to find out what’s happening. The end of the project is stress-free. There are no arguments about a catalog of features that must at all costs be included in the website or application. The scope is clear for everyone.
The UX and UI designs were also developed using the agile method, which also reinforces the relevance of the project and, more importantly, avoids a situation where page designs are created first and then have to be changed for functional reasons.
Lastly, this solution offers the team flexibility. Over the course of the project, the team goes from 6 to 12 people before going back down to 8. This is all planned according to the ramp-up of sprints.
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PlayBac Presse got an early, clear view of the minimum viable product to be offered to the public. The publishing house was able to coordinate the workload and budget within the time available, in the most efficient way and within a framework established at the beginning of the project.
In the end, the project processed 1,600 tickets, whereas 1,000 had been expected initially. We were able to release the desktop and mobile versions on time, while initially only the mobile version was planned.
The first few weeks after the release of the website proved the effectiveness of the agile method and the final product. The new websites quickly attracted thousands of new subscribers.
Besides PlayBac’s satisfaction with the delivered products, the publisher was able to accelerate its digital transformation through this project. PlayBac’s technical and marketing teams have adopted the agile method and the developers have moved from Symfony 1 to Symfony 3.