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FootballTop

Multifunctional Portal Dedicated to Football

Project Background

The client contacted Asapy while screening the market for a vendor capable of becoming the staple developer of an upcoming project that promised to become a leading football portal on the global market. The complexity of this undertaking rooted in the scale of the solution, its versatility, initial readiness for high load operation, flexibility for broad internationalization and future scalability.

The concept behind FootballTop was that of a massive international portal dedicated to football and its various aspects covered in news, articles, ratings, blogs, reports, live broadcasts, photo and video galleries, as well as a comprehensive encyclopedia of teams, players and leagues.

Asapy successfully passed the initial due diligence and, after several rounds of negotiations, was approved as the primary and only supplier of development and testing services on the project. The company was responsible for a full range of services, from initial requirements elucidation and graphic design to multi-stage development, testing and post-deployment maintenance.

Solution

FootballTop is a multifunctional portal solution incorporating the functionality of a sports encyclopedia, a social network with game elements, a news site with live text broadcasts lead by renowned experts and sport journalists, a video broadcasting service, and an international rating of teams and players. FootballTop was designed as a single “one-stop” platform for football fans to discuss their favorite teams, publish their content in corresponding sections of the site, keep their fingers on the pulse of the global football community, share photos and videos, read the latest football-related news and enjoy a vast collection of multimedia content. The portal also serves as a communication channel between clubs and their fans, enabling both to engage into direct communication.

FootballTop is also available for two major mobile platforms, Android and iOS.

The key features of the site are:

  • A powerful rating system covering players, clubs, national teams, national championships, coaches and FootballTop members. Each rating entry has a number of subpages, where applicable: bio, related news, rating, photos, videos, blogs, fans, comments. The rating subsystem is one of the most popular components of the solution that is deeply intertwined with other components of FootballTop
  • Social account – the site leverages it vast social potential by offering users a multitude of ways to interact, share information and discuss football
  • Blogs – a convenient blogging subsystem enabled thousands of FootballTop users to create their own blogs and share their thoughts with the rest of the FootballTop community
  • News feed – FootballTop features a powerful news aggregator that generates a consistent flow of news that users can filter by region or topic, comment on or share in social networks
  • Photo and Video content – the site offers a rich media library conveniently broken into different categories and constantly updated by users and the FootballTop administration
  • Life video and text broadcasts – some of the most sought for features of any sports-related online resource, they are an important part of FootballTop and are easily accessible from mobile devices for extra convenience
  • Fan wiki – a less formal Wiki-based part of the site focusing on fans and various aspects of their lives
  • Russian, English and Spanish versions, more localizations are under way

Development process

FootballTop is based on deeply modified Drupal This open-source CMS was substantially customized to accommodate the impressive number of custom page templates, sections and content types available on the site. At the same time, the team pushed the envelope to facilitate routine content management operations and make the work of the site administration as easy and hassle-free as possible.

Creation of such a large-scale (and easily scalable) solution with a projected user base estimated in hundreds of thousands of users required a complete overhaul of the systems responsible for database querying, page caching, load balancing and other performance-related activities. The project currently has over 50,000 active members who generate around 3 million page views a month with minimal response time.

To achieve the ambitions goals of the customer, Asapy got top-class specialists to work on the project:

  • Expert Drupal developers with hands-on experience of developing scalable, high load websites
  • Certified project management specialists
  • QA specialists with a proven track record of testing massive online solutions and well-versed in complex automated testing
  • Business-analysts capable of designing and documenting the complex business logic of this versatile platform

FootballTop was initially built to grow and expand vertically and horizontally thanks to its scalable architecture. After careful consideration, Asapy chose to use Scrum on this project, which enabled the team to gradually add new features over the course of development, test them and make the necessary modifications right away. This approach resulted in the successful and timely delivery of the initial version of the portal featuring the core feature set.

Some of the major issues that Asapy developers faced during the project:

  • Long version deployment times that created a drag on the development process and prevented the team from rolling out updates on the staging server. The problem was fixed by reconfiguring continuous integration settings that reduced the average version deployment time to 3-4 minutes
  • Page indexing issues related to the presence of page duplicates used for testing purposed. The problem was solved by their timely removal and updates made to the corresponding source pages
  • Page rendering speed due to unsatisfactory performance of the caching subsystem. The problem was solved by using nginx on the server end

Technologies

Asapy used Drupal as the core component of FootballTop. This open-source CMS was chosen for its stability, scalability and fitness for building high-load applications serving hundreds to thousands of concurrently active users. One of the Top 10 Drupal programmers in Central & Eastern Europe and of the most renowned contributors to its core took part in the development of FootballTop.

  • Database: MySQL
  • Server API: PHP 5.3
  • GUI: jQuery
  • System load testing: Apache Benchmarks
  • Continuous integration: Jenkins/phing
  • Issue tracking: TargetProcess
  • Code repository: Git

Results

As of today, FootballTop has left the pilot stage and is currently one of the leading football projects with a user base exceeding 50,000 and growing at a steady rate. Apart from being a massive online community of football fans, it is also the largest online encyclopedia of football featuring detailed descriptions of over 12,000 football players from all over the world. With over 7+ million page views per quarter coming predominantly from search systems, FootballTop has been officially recognized by 16 international football federations, mentioned by leading mass media and quoted by over 30 leading sport portals.

Asapy is currently working on a number of project enhancements:

  • New social features
  • Horizontal expansion into other types of sports: Hockey, Tennis, Basketball, Martial Arts, etc.
  • A quest system and integration of game elements
  • A forecasting/betting system
  • 6 new language localizations, including Arabic and Chinese
  • An online store of football accessories and other products and services