Every year Frito-Lay pulls in billions of dollars from sales of its flagship assortment of potato chips, including Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, and Ruffles. Behind all of these crunchy snacks is a busy hive of designers and project managers who require a robust system for working together on creative projects.
Last year, Frito-Lay approached Lift, a WordPress design and development agency, to create a custom project management/proofing app for its creative team. Lift opted to build the app using WordPress as a base. The result is a completely customized admin experience tailored to fit Frito-Lay’s workflow like a glove.
Under the Hood of the App
The project management app melds a collection of plugins with an accompanying theme to deliver the necessary user roles, custom fields, notifications/updates, and upload management.
“We created a custom theme that includes modifications to the WordPress admin and force redirects users to sign in if they attempt to visit a page that typically would appear on the front-end,” Lift Partner Chris Wallace said. His team used a number of plugins to customize the admin, including:
- Advanced Custom Fields by Elliot Condon
- Members by Justin Tadlock
- Stream (the pre-cloud based version) by X-Team
- Amazon S3 and Cloudfront by Brad Touesnard
Lift implemented the custom admin design as part of the theme. They built it in such a way that the client will be able to keep pace with WordPress core and plugin updates without breaking the app.
“We tried to keep major UI changes to a minimum and focus on building the UI with Advanced Custom Fields wherever we needed that level of customization,” Wallace said.
“There are a few custom UI elements but they are styled and managed through our custom theme, so updated plugins and WordPress Core shouldn’t ever really break those things as long as major actions and filters remain in place.”
Lift customized the project workflow for Frito-Lay using new workflows based on post statuses, modeled after the way Edit Flow manages the editorial process.
“When projects are updated, we check for a certain status and send out update emails to whoever needs to be notified for certain stages of the project,” Wallace said. “Additionally, we swapped the ‘publish’ metabox out for a custom one based on our status updates, allowing us to easily show the state of the project and change the UI as necessary.”
Why Use WordPress Instead of Basecamp?
You might be wondering why Frito-Lay would opt to build its own project management app when something like Basecamp already exists with similar features.
Basecamp’s top pricing tier is $3K per year and has a maximum storage limit of 500GB. That limit could be used up fairly quickly while managing design projects, which often require passing large files back and forth between team members.
Instead, Frito-Lay stores all of its data on Amazon, which allows the team to organize files exactly how it needs them. Building a custom project management app preserves the team’s established workflow. They never have to worry about running out of space and can always modify the app’s behavior if necessary in the future.
Wallace said that it’s not uncommon for Lift to receive requests from companies that prefer to build their own custom software, instead of going with a SaaS provider. In many cases, building a custom solution is more cost effective for the client in the long run.
“Most of the projects we’ve done recently have been for television networks and news organizations but we do receive frequent requests to modify workflows in the WordPress admin,” he said. “I would say most of our work involves theme design but there are definitely clients who need plugins that add or modify the admin one way or another.”
Although WordPress proved to be a strong option for Frito-Lay, Wallace and the Lift team don’t always pitch the platform for their projects.
“It just so happens that it is a good fit for many of the projects we are presented with,” he said. “I think for most website projects nowadays, clients just need something familiar, fast, and easy to use and WordPress typically fits in with that.”
Lift is currently building more projects with AngularJS using the WordPress REST API to create more customized app-like solutions.
Building custom apps for clients doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. “I think we’ve gotten to the point where WordPress has proven to be highly stable, scalable, fast, and easy-to-use,” he said.
“If you need advice, there are a bunch of local meetups and online groups dedicated to WP, an advantage which is lacking in some of the smaller CMS tools out there. Community is everything.”