Deep Dive: Building a Multisite Solution with WordPress and Pantheon
Each installment in our Deep Dive series breaks down our approach to complex software challenges. Follow this link to view more case studies in the series.
PTC Therapeutics (PTC) is a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on innovative small molecule and gene therapies for rare genetic disorders. Since their founding in 1998, PTC has achieved breakthrough treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency, Huntington’s disease, and many other diseases.
With a business footprint in more than 50 countries, PTC Therapeutics strives to maintain a local web presence in multiple markets across the globe. They’ve launched more than a dozen websites over the years in multiple languages to reach audiences in North America, South America, and Europe. Many of the countries in these regions have strict marketing regulations on pharmaceutical products that vary by jurisdiction.
Adding to the complexity, PTC’s websites were designed, built, and managed by teams operating in different time zones and languages. It was a significant resourcing challenge for them to make content and functionality changes to multiple sites.
To streamline the content management processes for their teams and improve the digital experience for their audience segments, PTC selected Mindgrub to unify their corporate communications websites on one platform with a shared design. Developing a WordPress site on Pantheon's high-performance hosting platform proved to be the ideal solution to meet all of PTC’s needs.
WordPress has a simple user interface (UI) compared to other, more enterprise-oriented platforms and—because it uses some of the most common web development languages—it is relatively easy to learn. With an extensive support community, WordPress also has multiple dedicated systems (e.g., WPScan) that catalog core vulnerabilities and other bugs among roughly 47,000 active plugins and 3,500 free themes.
While there are several ways to approach a multilingual site in WordPress, we chose to leverage WordPress Multisite—a native feature that allows multiple sites to be managed under a single installation. The resulting collection of sites is often referred to as a WordPress network.
The WordPress Multisite approach was ideal for PTC for several reasons. This solution:
- Does not require third-party language plugins and instead utilizes built in WordPress internationalization support
- Provides separate domain support for each site in the network, allowing us to utilize region specific, top-level domains (e.g., PTC's German site)
- Supports different site structures and content types to meet various regulatory requirements
- Allows assets, themes, and plugins to be shared between sites via a single codebase, making it easier and more efficient to maintain and deploy changes, new features, and security enhancements to all of the sites at once
With WordPress Multisite, content administrators can quickly and easily jump from one site to another in the backend.
Mindgrub evaluated several managed hosting providers with extensive experience and expertise in WordPress Multisite. Of our top recommendations, PTC chose Pantheon because they offer all of the following:
- Guaranteed 99.99% Service Level Agreement (or SLA)—the best among all of the options that were considered
- Simple pricing tiers
- Modern container-based cloud architecture
- Out-of-the box CDN and caching
- Automated scaling and load balancing for traffic spikes and long-term growth
- White-glove launch support
- Quick 24/7 response times and direct access to staff via Slack
- Unmatched developer-friendly tooling, including integrated version control, automation support, multiple environments, and more
Setting up a WordPress Multisite network can be difficult and therefore requires quite a bit of knowledge and skill. Partnering with Pantheon makes it easier because they guide developers through the process. Their staff handles all of the heavy lifting and delivers a solution that is immediately ready for software engineers to begin development.
Another key benefit of using Pantheon is its scalability and the potential for future growth. Since PTC plans to migrate additional sites to WordPress, Pantheon’s unique pricing model—which separates account support tiers from individual site hosting costs—will allow them to add small-scale sites for minimal additional fees while maintaining their enterprise support tier.
Integrations that Help with Compliance
To make websites even easier for PTC’s content administrators to manage, we integrated them with DocCheck and CookiePro.
In some European countries—Germany and Austria specifically—there are regulations that restrict the marketing of certain pharmaceutical products and information to the general public.
DocCheck serves as a third-party identity verification system that is only available to medical professionals, and therefore the only users that can access the restricted information.
We integrated DocCheck’s login service into PTC’s applicable websites. Content managers can place pages behind a login screen simply by filling out a few fields.
With cookie compliance becoming increasingly important, we knew we needed a very robust solution. We evaluated more than ten different options in this highly competitive space, and selected CookiePro since it provides a solution that has the right balance of automation and customizability.
Each website within the network contains different content, and therefore requires a slightly different set of cookies. CookiePro automates this for us by routinely scanning each site and adjusting the language and cookie descriptions accordingly.
We can customize every piece of text that CookiePro displays, which enables us to translate and customize the banner for each language PTC supports. We also have the ability to change the cookie compliance behavior based on visitor geolocation. For example, in the European Union where compliance laws are very strict, we can enable an opt-in experience while allowing countries with less stringent compliance laws to use an opt-out experience.
A Seamless, Scalable Digital Ecosystem
WordPress Multisite powers multiple user interfaces, reducing costs associated with content sharing across multiple platforms and streamlining development processes. The multisite solution coupled with Pantheon’s hosting services allow PTC to populate and manage content more securely and efficiently, ultimately improving the user experience for health care professionals, patients and their loved ones.