24.4.2017

Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre Messukeskus launched their website redesign project in 2014. At the time, their website was running on SharePoint 2007. The site was not serving customers as well as desired anymore, and the technical platform was aging rapidly, too.

The aim was to replace the old SharePoint solution with a modern, easier-to-maintain combination of web services targeted to both visitors and exhibitors. Messukeskus wanted to offer their visitors inspiring and activating content before, during and after each event, and to encourage people to share their experiences with others.

The scope of the project was extensive – including not only the convention centre’s public website, but also several minisites for individual exhibitions, trade fairs and events, as well as an extranet with a wide user base. The extranet was a channel for the exhibitors to place orders for equipment, stands and services for their own booths and display areas.

Gaining control through dissectioning

The project started from a challenging setting. The web service abounded with minisites related to individual events, as well as different content types, user groups and usage situations. The majority of the extranet content was administrated via Messukeskus’ backend systems, which meant that a great deal of integrations was required.

There were plenty of open questions. What kind of stages and subprojects would be included in the redesign project? How would they be placed on the timeline? What could the total cost be? What kind of technologies should be used? How could the old and new web services reside alongside each other so that the ongoing preparations for future events would not be disturbed?

North Patrol was briefed to outline a clear roadmap for the project, in which these questions would be answered and the subprojects prioritized. As a result, the first draft of the redesign process phases and suggestions for individual subprojects was created. Furthermore, a rough cost estimate for each stage of the project was made.

– In the past few years, our digital offering has been taken to a whole new level. Quite recently, we launched the world’s first large-scale augmented reality (AR) application intended for the general public. Right from the beginning, we have also had commercial partners in our AR world. Before such innovations we invested in upgrading the so-called basic infrastructure, and modernized our website and the business clients’ service channel. Basic infrastructure has an important role in conducting business, and increasingly often digital presence is how people get to know a company. This is the reason why we needed a partner who would be able to look at the whole picture with us, says Maria Mroue, Marketing and Communications Director at Suomen Messut.

The project group from Messukeskus was really committed right from the start, and different functions of the organization were well represented in the group. The whole project group shared the objective to create an entirely new, top-quality web service which would serve the users even better than before. The roadmap was outlined in a brisk pace in spring 2014, within a period of about a month.

Already at this point it became evident that the entire implementation should not be made using a single, monolithic system. Instead, it is wiser to dissect the redesign process into smaller subprojects that are easier to manage. This way, it is also easier to implement the new system in phases.

We decided to begin the project with a thorough concept design process. Messukeskus chose Vapa Media (public web service) and Exove Design (extranet) as their partners for the concept design work.

Arranging event information

Organizing an event often starts at least six months before the actual event date. Event organizers place their orders for facilities, equipment and services for their own display areas via the Messukeskus extranet. From there, the orders are transferred to the Messukeskus CRM system. In the core of the solution, a new transaction service was created. It works like an online store where event organizers are able to take care of all orders related to the event, as well as keep their own information and schedule up to date. The decision was made to send requests for proposals for the implementation of this part of the project first. North Patrol assisted in this process.

The winning proposal was provided by Exove. Their solution was both innovative and modern as well as cost-effective. The open source content management system Drupal was the platform of choice, and parts of their eCommerce platform, Drupal Commerce, were included as well. AngularJS framework was chosen for implementing the event organizers’ user interface, so that the user experience would be as smooth as possible.

Public web service

In this particular case, the organization’s public website is not the usual run-of-the-mill stuff, either. Messukeskus’ own website contains a comprehensive overview of the Messukeskus facility, future events, and the content stream related to them. Furthermore, there are separate minisites for each event which contain e.g. exhibitors’ own content picked up from the transaction service. For event pages, an “expo machine” was created. It enables the visitor to plan their visit’s schedule and pick content to create their own “expo path”.

North Patrol assisted Messukeskus with the specification and request for proposals tasks at this stage of the project as well. Reproductability and ease of administration especially were reasons why WordPress was chosen as the publishing platform already at the specifications definition phase. Evermade was chosen as the provider. They made an impact by their understanding on organizing events and business operations related to it.

Integration is never easy

Even though the interfaces between modern content management systems work rather well these days, integration between different systems is still challenging. The Messukeskus website complex is exceptionally elaborate for a web service, so in addition to Drupal’s own interfaces, many new custom-made interfaces had to be created. Some of them required more work than anticipated, which resulted in delayed schedules.

In the end, all difficulties were overcome, and the entire new website ensemble was published in spring 2016.

Project data and specifications

eMessukeskus (messukeskus.com)

Technology platform: Drupal, WordPress
Budget range: 250 000–500 000 €

  • Spring 2014 – Roadmap for web service development (North Patrol)
  • Summer–fall 2014 – Public web service and transaction service content conceptual planning (Vapa Media, Exove Design)
  • Spring 2015 – Detailed specifications for the transaction service, request for proposals and vendor selection (North Patrol)
  • Spring 2015 – spring 2016 – Transaction service design and implementation (Exove)
  • Summer 2015 – Detailed specifications for the public web service, request for proposals and vendor selection (North Patrol)
  • Spring 2015 – spring 2016 – Public web service design and implementation (Evermade)
  • Spring 2016 – Launch