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Case Study

Pushing Design Boundaries with Directus: UK Branding Agency Builds Innovative Digital Experiences to Promote Diversity & Sustainability

By Benjamin Haynes on May 13, 2022

Held in Edinburgh and Birmingham, England, “Polinations” is a celebration of the diversity in culture and identity, and an opportunity to contemplate the complex histories around the migration, identity and culture of people in the UK. At the event, attendees explore and learn about indigenous trees and plants, listen to music and hear from expert speakers. It’s a carnival, Pride festival and celebration of life, all rolled into one.

To raise awareness for such a glorious and colorful event, one-of-a-kind digital experiences were in order – and Peter and Paul, a brand communications agency based in Sheffield, was hired to create them in collaboration with Megaverse. “We needed a website to describe and promote the event, as well as an interactive companion app that would enable people to generate 3D flowers based on answers to questions about their personality and emotions,” said Tom Smedley, Freelance Web Developer at Peter and Paul. “The purpose of the app is to promote the event and enable people to experience the message. To that end, creativity and sustainability were important themes to capture in all of our branding and communications.”

Tom had been using ProcessWire for content management, which leverages server-side PHP. For this project, he decided to move to a Node.js based tool. “ProcessWire was purely for managing content, and it didn’t provide the REST+GraphQL API needed to access the databases,” he said. “We needed to create both a website and an app, so a traditional CMS was insufficient.”

After evaluating several solutions, including Contentful, Strapi and Prismic, Tom chose Directus. “Shopping for an API-focused tool was like a candy-shop experience,” he said. “There were so many to choose from. But out of all of them, Directus has fewer tradeoffs and all of the capabilities I need. It’s like a blank slate from which I could build any digital experience I wanted. The fact that it’s open-source is a massive plus.”

Polinations Website

Exceptional Developer Experience, Out-of-the-Box

According to Tom, the out-of-the-box experience Directus provides, including built-in content management features and extensive field options, is exceptional. “The consideration with which Directus was developed is unmatched,” he said. “From the number of fields available to the ability to change views, to the mapping feature that helps design experiences for venues, you can tell that a lot of thought and consideration was applied when developing the platform. You don’t have to scramble to find plugins as you would with other CMS platforms – it’s all there, out-of-the-box.”

Tom was particularly impressed with the Directus interface, which is simple and intuitive, as well as the community support available through the Directus Discord channel. “On Discord, there’s always someone willing to help, and that’s especially important to me as a freelance designer because I don’t always have all the answers,” he said. “By tapping into the Discord channel, I feel as if I have a full team of developers to rely on.”

Sustainability and Performance Align with Project Goals

Directus enabled Tom to create digital experiences that push the boundaries while delivering fast, reliable performance. “Our interactive app must access and serve up data in real time in order to generate flowers based on users’ specifications, and that’s something I don’t think we can achieve without Directus,” he said. “Responses are delivered in milliseconds, and it’s easy to set fields and permissions, and use APIs to connect to the data we need.”

Additionally, Directus enabled Peter and Paul to deliver a more sustainable website that uses substantially less power than a website built using PHP. “Sustainability is a key initiative for our client and for the Polinations event as a whole,” Tom said. “With a PHP-based website, each time a user interacts with it, it has to connect to the database, fetch the data and send it back. Using the dynamic REST+GraphQL API in concert with Astro’s static site builder allows Directus to sit idle until we update content, which then builds on the client-side. Not only does the user experience better performance, it’s far less taxing on the servers.”

Tom added that Directus has given him the confidence to take on projects that are outside of his comfort zone. “It can be quite intimidating when you’re moving to a new language for building digital experiences, especially when they are so complex and interactive,” he said. “I wouldn't have the confidence to do it, if it wasn't for Directus.”

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