The agency, Made by Rise, and 21YunBox helped Zippo to rebrand and host their modern JAMStack-backed site in China within a tight timeframe.
This post will share how Ed’s team at Made by Rise and 21YunBox’s team worked together to overcome the legal and technical challenges to make the modern JAMStack architecture possible in China.
Using 21YunBox, Ed’s team was able to deploy the JAMStack architecture in China with ease. Providing Zippo with an 8x faster site load, top ranking on Baidu (the leading search engine in China), and an agile teamwork flow.
One of the most recognized brands in the world, Zippo was founded in the fall of 1932 by George G. Blaisdell in Bradford, Pennsylvania, where it has manufactured over 600 million windproof lighters. Except for improvements to the flint wheel and modifications in case finishes, the product remains unchanged and is backed by the company’s famous Zippo guarantee – “It works, or we fix it free.” ™ Zippo’s diverse product line includes lighters, leather goods, eyewear, lighter accessories, butane candle lighters, and a robust line of heat and flame products for outdoor enthusiasts. Zippo markets in over 180 countries and owns Bradford-based W.R. Case and Sons Cutlery Company and Wellsville, NY-based Northern Lights, a leading designer of luxury candles and artisan accessories.
Zippo Challenges in Launching JAMstack in China
The outdated monolithic architecture resulted in low productivity from the customer’s team. Ed was initially planning to build a set of RESTful APIs to fetch, create, and update content out of their existing CMS in the early days. He quickly realized maintaining the set of APIs in the long term was not feasible. His team had only 3 months left to rebrand the site from scratch, including graphical interface designs, brand promotional video shootings, and the new site-building. Since only a selection of products would be displayed on the new site, data migration to a CMS solution in JAMstack would be an efficient solution.
Several factors were contributing to the performance and productivity slow down:
IT Bottleneck: The customer’s server is managed internally by their ops team. Whenever the development team needed to launch a new function or version update, they had to coordinate with both engineering and ops teams to implement any changes.
Limited Resources: The productivity of the customer’s team was limited by the old and monolithic architecture. For example: if the customer needs to deploy Zippo China’s site on the content delivery networks (CDN) through their team, it is a lot of effort for the ops engineers, or costly to find a third-party provider which also has a long R&D cycle.
Multi-Team Collaboration Struggles: The customer’s original monolith architecture made an agile workflow impossible. For example, the customer’s design team could not preview content and updates as changes were being made. This caused inefficiencies and slowed down the entire team’s workflow.
Oversea Technologies are either Completely Blocked or Very Slow in China
Scaling as the business grows has always been on Ed’s mind, so he wished to use overseas SaaS and PaaS solutions to make it possible.
However, Ed painfully discovered that many popular overseas SaaS and PaaS solutions are not usable or are completely blocked in China. Here are few examples:
Content Management Systems (CMS): Sanity, Contentful, DatoCMS, Airtable
Image Storage Services: Cloudinary, AWS S3
Video hosting services: Youtube, Vimeo
Hosting platforms: Netlify, Vercel, Gatsby Cloud, Github Pages, etc will be very slow or even inaccessible.
There were limited options with the above solutions, so he needed an acceleration of above technologies.
Ed had run preview tests using Netlify on Zippo’s new site. He knew based on previous tests that Netlify Edge’s nearest CDN node to China is in Singapore. The access speed and stability of Netlify in China were not satisfying.
In addition, Ed reached out to Netlify’s support team and found no resolution. It was challenging for the team to learn that their trusted technologies are not supported in China.
Red Tape of ICP Filing
Early on, Ed reached out to 21YunBox to learn more about getting an ICP for Zippo. He quickly discovered that getting ICP is time-consuming, and he worried about the timing transfer.
Here are few things that were observed when helping Zippo to get the proper legal licenses.
Ed’s team worried about the consequences of inaccessibility of the new site if the ICP filing was not transferred in time.
Ed’s client already had a valid ICP license, and he was unsure if the process of transferring was the same as registering for a new ICP. He was not sure how to transfer or renew the ICP license to 21YunBox.
The client’s original website was hosted with AliCloud. Their devops team needed to double-check if the new ICP filings would affect their old website hosting. While searching for an answer, the client found it challenging to determine the transfer time due to insufficient online documentation.
There are many articles on Google talk about ICPs. However, most of the content is provided by law firms and their service scope only covers how to get an ICP license. The lack of information left Ed with only “half an answer”, as there was no definite answer on how to integrate the ICP with their website.
In addition, online ICP content is limited in up-to-date guidance to get a site up online and publicly accessible in China. As you might know, the policies and regulations change regularly in China. The outdated information leads to more confusion and headaches.
When Zippo decided to begin a major rebranding project, the development team saw an opportunity to address the challenges plaguing them and the executive team: The website would require a significant overhaul as part of the rebranding, opening the door for a complete rebuild with new technology that improves performance, accelerate the pace of development, and potentially rank top on Chinese search engines.
Over the next several months, the team began redeveloping the website. Right away, they made great strides by leveraging several features of 21YunBox:
21YunBox Build: 21YunBox uniformly initiates data requests to major headless backend systems and pre-builds static websites.
21YunBox CDN / Edge: this provides advanced functionality built on top of leading cloud providers in China. It’s built-in directly with 21YunBox Build to provide extremely fast content delivery network (CDN) nodes distributed across Mainland China, helping the Zippo website to serve the 1.41 billion users in China with ease.
Automatic Routing and Forwarding: After the Git code is submitted, 21YunBox will automatically adapt the URL of the website, which can be done automatically without the manual help of Zippo’s ops team.
HTTPS Security Certificate: The entire website is equipped with an HTTPS security certificate, including second-level subdomains and self-determined domain names, which can be completed automatically without the manual help of Zippo’s ops team.
CMS Integrations: 21YunBox seamlessly connects with dozens of CMS solutions, so the development team was able to integrate with Contentful to meet the needs of marketing colleagues and content contributors.
ICP Filing Consultancy Service: 21YunBox helped Zippo to address the problems and concerns when they complete the ICP Filing and enabled the website to be publicly accessible in China in compliance with laws and regulations.
Performance Without Overhead
Page load times have improved by over 8x times, without the additional high cost of third-party content delivery networks (CDN). The straightforward architecture, transparent processes, seamless integrations, and out-of-the-box features of 21YunBox allowed the team to:
- Deliver faster without waiting on the IT or ops engineers. The team can quickly troubleshoot any issues.
- Eliminate the dependency on an IT administrator or a DevOps engineer since there is no server or infrastructure to manage.
Historically, one of the team’s biggest worries has been the website’s performance and uptime. This worry has disappeared now that 21YunBox continuously monitors and resolves any slowdown or availability issues.
Using 21YunBox, Ed helped make Zippo’s workflow agile, allowing the team more efficient when developing, reviewing, and deploying new content to their customers. Now, Zippo’s website successfully releases new content 3 to 4 times a day.
The team was satisfied with the results, and it matched what the team originally expected and designed.
The team’s overall experience with JAMstack and 21YunBox has been positive. Now their engineers can push and release new changes within minutes with no helps from the ops engineers, enabling them to ship code much faster. At the same time, the team feels that 21YunBox Build has dramatically improved the company’s productivity and reduced costs.
Scale with business growth without adding complexity
Zippo’s team initially expected a few thousand unique visitors to visit the site in the first month of launch, but it received 2.5x more unique visitors than expected.
A few months after launch, the team has experienced 10x growth in unique visitors, and the JAMStack architecture with 21YunBox works without adding new changes.
The new site loads faster in China, ranking top on Baidu and other leading search engines in China. Resulting in massive exposure and overall, more sales.
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