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Faster, Easier and Also in French: ButterCMS + Gatsby drive Car Loans Canada

Jake Lumetta
May 5th, 2020

Car Loans Canada helps connect prospective car buyers with automotive loans and car dealers throughout Canada. Marketing content is an essential part of this business model, and Car Loans Canada relies on a high volume of blog posts—in both English and French—to build the top-of-funnel awareness required to continue growing this successful business.

The company needed to scale its website’s performance to keep pace with this growth and success. The team already knew they wanted to build it with Gatsby. However, blog content needed to scale along with the new site, meaning that content creators must be able to easily publish or change content without any developer intervention.

Because the Car Loans Canada team outsources most of its blog content at a rather large scale, it needed an efficient way to move its writers through the content creation workflow with minimal intervention from Car Loans Canada engineers. Blog management had originated in WordPress, which had resulted in also using WordPress on the front end to simplify running the blog engine. The engineering team was eager to move away from this setup and quickly concluded that a headless content management system (CMS) was the best and only option.

The prime directive was static asset management. “I needed something that would allow my writers to go in and create a blog that I could just post on my website without having to worry about how they’re going to style it or anything,”says Josh Elias, Car Loans Canada’s CTO. “Not to mention avoid having to pull developers off other tasks to help them make it happen.”

Josh and his team also had two more technical considerations that quickly limited the field of potential headless CMS solutions. First and foremost: localization. Being a Canadian company with operations across the country, Car Loans Canada needs the ability to publish content in both English and French. They also planned to rebuild the site using React and Gatsby, which would allow them to select whichever engine made the most sense for their static content. Not all blog engines play equally nice with these developer frameworks.

Not all headless CMSs are created equal

The decision came down to two final CMS contenders: Contentful and ButterCMS. There were four main reasons that ultimately tipped the scales toward ButterCMS:

  • ButterCMS plays nice with Gatsby, the framework that Car Loans Canada uses to build its sites.
  • Documentation and support were superior across the board. Documentation was especially important to the company. (“I won’t use anything with poor documentation,” adds Josh). ButterCMS and Gatsby are both known for dedication to outstanding documentation.
  • Clear and simple pricing meant the team knew exactly how many collections and pages they’d get, and for what price.
  • The speedy API responds quickly thanks to static querying, which allowed Car Loans Canada to take full advantage of building a very fast, highly responsive website using Gatsby.

Relying solely on ButterCMS documentation, Josh and his team were able to rebuild the entire Car Loans Canada blog in React and Gatsby in just two days. “Like I said, the documentation was such that there were no special edge cases that I needed clarification on,” says Josh. “I was able to just get going just off the guides.” Because ButterCMS is cloud-hosted, the Car Loans Canada team doesn’t have to configure or host any new infrastructure for their CMS. Instead, they use a number of queries while building their project at no additional cost at all.

In terms of localization, the ability to localize content in French and English versions of the site was a huge win in terms of ease of use and time saved.

So much more than blog posts

While they initially intended to use ButterCMS only for content management for their blog, the team at Car Loans Canada soon realized they could do much more than that.

“I could host static assets for my homepage and others. Let’s say there’s a feature description on our About page. Now, a content creator could just go in and change the wording whenever they want to,” Josh says. “There’s a lot of power in that, especially since we’re a relatively small company.”

Car Loans Canada website landing page

In addition, the team could address special content needs. For example, the team has a different page for every city in Ontario (more than thirty cities, at least). Using ButterCMS, Josh created a collection, all the content for those pages, and iterates them through Gatsby to create a new page for every single collection item.

Pretty much everything that I can put in ButterCMS, I will. Anything touched by any kind of content creator, I just put that on ButterCMS so they can edit it and then just create a front viewport in my web stack. It’s working out very well.

Today, content on the Car Loans Canada website loads significantly faster than it did before moving to Gatsby and ButterCMS. And it’s not just optimization: the content itself has been upgraded, including structure and visuals, to create better and richer content experiences. All of which could be done fearlessly thanks to Gatsby’s best-practice front end development patterns like route-based code splitting, PRPL, service workers, and offline support with dynamic data integrations.

So far, the new site is performing wonderfully, Josh reports. The team is seeing impressive outcomes from the blazing fast performance, including:

  • Increased pageviews per session
  • Average user time spent on site has more than doubled
  • Full independence for marketing content leading to more and better content

“Because I can query all the data before, and bundle my website up and then deploy it, the content doesn’t need to be processed every time a user requests it,” concludes Josh. “We believe this will impact our SEO significantly, leading to impressive gains.”

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Jake is the CEO of ButterCMS. He loves whipping up Butter puns and building tools that make developers' lives better.

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Tagged with building-sites-faster, Case Studies, localization, Website PerformanceView all Tags

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