pzpn

Headless CMS for PZPN

A complex headless CMS system on Drupal

PZPN (The Polish Football Association) is the biggest and one of the oldest sports associations in Poland. PZPN combines tradition with modernity. One of its symbols is websites run by the association. The Football Connects Us portal is a multifaceted platform with information for all Polish football fans. It contains articles and videos about not only the highest level football but also the ones on the amateur and children's levels. On the Football Connects Us channels, you can also watch broadcasts of important matches of the youth national teams and the league games of the Central Junior League. The strength of the Football Connects Us websites are social media. Its coordinators, in a modern and attractive way, connect with a multi-million group of Polish team fans scattered all over the world. The Football Connects Us channel doesn't forget about history. That is why the idea for the PZPN Library appeared. It’s a project unique on a global scale. On the PZPN Library website, you can find videos, photos, souvenirs, gadgets, interesting facts, and statistics related to the rich and successful past of Polish football.

Challenge

PZPN previously had several CMS systems based on various technologies - from dedicated systems to open source solutions. However, neither of them could handle a large amount of data. During one weekend, up to several thousand matches can be held, after which twice as much data is added. Therefore, the client needed an efficient CMS. The system was supposed to be able to deal with content management for multiple sites.

The new solution had to fit into the IT architecture of the PZPN systems. Their heart is the data bus (Apache NiFi), which is a place that collects data from all services. There is a database, tools for managing data as well as receiving and sending them out. The data comes to the bus from various places:

  • from the Extranet System, where coaches and referees enter information about the matches,
  • from a CMS, where editors enrich the extranet data with photos and longer descriptions and send them back to the data bus.
The structure of operation of PZPN websites, which includes headless CMS
The PZPN library is one of the websites using the Drupal headless CMS system

All websites (Football Connects Us, PZPN Library, From the Backyard to the Stadium) send queries directly to the data bus. Then a special API transfers the collected data to specific websites. The new CMS system had to efficiently supply the bus with data. It also had to be created in such a way that it could support other platforms and deliver content to them in the future.

The project was preceded by a detailed analysis and workshops with the client which were crucial to the project implementation. We also talked with the editors about their needs for the CMS system. All this was to understand exactly how the solution had to work from the frontend side, properly plan the data architecture in the headless CMS, and create a system that is friendly and easy to use for editors.

The home page of the Football Connects Us website uses the headless CMS

Solution

  • The system we’ve been working on is a headless solution (the frontend is separate from the backend). Although it doesn’t communicate directly with the frontend, it’s tailored to it.
  • The system is built from components (i.e. ready-made website elements) that are intended for specific pages. After logging in to the CMS, the editor sees only the types of content to which they have access within the websites they prepare the content for.
  • Most often, a given content type is made up of components. Based on the received graphic designs, we determined which Drupal components and modules are needed by the editorial office to create an article that will look a certain way while leaving the freedom to modify. Then if editors want to have a different order of the components, they can change it.
On the PZPN Library website you can see the course of individual matches

As part of the projects, we created dedicated components, mostly for the needs of the PZPN Library and match descriptions. One of them looks easy from the frontend side but is based on a lot of information from the CMS system. Its operation is visible when creating an article. The editor then has access to information related to a specific match (statistics on who played at what position). When they describe, for example, what was the composition of the players on the field for each team in a given minute, they can only choose from the players who participated in that game (not from the thousands of players available in the database). It happens due to data filtering on the CMS side. This way, the editors don’t have to spend time searching for information.

We cooperated with many teams that were responsible for individual elements of these subprojects. During periods of increased activities, we operated in multi-person teams, in line with Agile practices (daily, sprints). In addition to creating a headless CMS, we also made API documentation, which was later used by other teams. Additionally, we conducted training for the editors on how to use the system.

We’re currently supporting the solutions we’ve delivered. We’re also working on additional functionalities.

laptop and smartphone

Result

The headless CMS system we’ve created feeds three websites and internal systems with data. We’ve prepared it in a universal and responsive way that allows you to easily add more pages. This CMS has several features:

  1. Enriching the data generated in the Extranet System. The referee or coach adds basic information about the match, which then goes to the data bus. The editor can use this information in the CMS and enrich it with photos and descriptions.
  2. Creating new content unrelated to extranet data. The editor writes an article, for example, for the Football Connects Us website. The content is created in the CMS, from where it’s sent to the data bus so that the frontend part of the solution could download it.
  3. Providing data for the Extranet System. They are used for inside information. The headless CMS also produces data that isn't presented on the frontend side but is only used by internal systems.


See the PZPN websites online

The CMS is intuitive and offers great freedom of work. In addition, the works were carried out promptly and in a very constructive environment.

Magdalena Urbańska

The Director of the Department of Amateur Football (Grassroots) of PZPN

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