– A WordPress Migration and Redesign Case Study

Rolling Stone - Welcome to the New Rolling Stone!

This Case Study is published by the Make WordPress Marketing Team. Provided by XWP, a WordPress-focused engineering firm.

The Project

Rolling Stone is an exceptionally well-loved brand with millions of readers. When Penske Media Corporation (PMC) made a strategic investment in the property, they worked with XWP in 2018 to migrate the site to WordPress while refreshing the brand’s website design.

The Challenge

The challenges for the project included the need to move hundreds of thousands of articles while simultaneously executing a brand new design. Penske needed to trust that the transition was seamless for both readers and the editorial teams alike.

“From the start, we knew that this project would be a significant undertaking due to the vast amount of historical archive data, dating back to the 1960’s, and the brand’s massive fanbase. We approached this project with the necessary care and foresight to ensure a smooth migrationMigration Moving the code, database and media files for a website site from one server to another. Most typically done when changing hosting companies. and an end product that is built on solid technical grounding.”

Matt Geri | WordPress Architect, XWP

Why WordPress was transitioning from a Content Management System (CMS) that lacked modern editorial features to enable their writers. Additionally, the prior system was missing many of development efficiencies needed to scale the platform to the next stage of growth for their brand. WordPress was quickly identified as the ideal solution because of the ability to create a great experience for content creators while also providing an enterprise-grade coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. platform to make further development more efficient with the goal of maximizing ad revenue.

The Obstacles

The migration to WordPress faced a few unique challenges. With over 250,000 articles in the backlog and millions of image and media attachments, this migration was also coupled with a full redesign of the website. New plans for editorial features to improve the publishing experience were also introduced as well as an integration with Penske’s existing WordPress website. The obstacles involved ensuring the migration accounted for the functional requirements while also delivering the brand new, high profile refresh of the brand’s online experience.

The Solution


XWP leveraged Google Cloud Platform to build a highly-scalable import process that handled the transformation of data and images into a WordPress compatible structure without any data loss. This migration process, as is the case with any large migration, was successful because of the time spent on architecting, building, and testing. When the time came to push the migrate button, it ran correctly and efficiently.

Code Quality

With performance, stability and security being the top priorities, code quality was a major priority to set the team up for success in the future. Custom plugins and themes give WordPress its competitive edge. Combined with WordPress VIP as the host, this set the site up for success at launch. XWP used Tide and custom code sniffssniff A module for PHP Code Sniffer that analyzes code for a specific problem. Multiple stiffs are combined to create a PHPCS standard. The term is named because it detects code smells, similar to how a dog would "sniff" out food. to ensure the plugins and themes met WordPress VIP’s coding standards without issue.

Editorial Experience

Rolling Stone regularly breaks down the music, film, and TV industry into list-style articles with a unique layout and design, giving readers a high-level view on a particular topic. The editorial needed an interface that would easily facilitate the production. Working with the editorial team to identify the UXUX UX is an acronym for User Experience - the way the user uses the UI. Think ‘what they are doing’ and less about how they do it. requirements, XWP was able to do the following:

  • Provide ability to number and reorder list items;
  • Provide a custom focal-point image cropping too
  • Provide template selection based on the focus of the article.

Additionally, some of these list-style articles can contain 100’s of items, so implementing a custom pagination solution helped the end reader easily navigate through longer lists.

“This was one of our smoothest and most successful launches to date. Everyone who reviewed the site – both before and after launch – commented on the exceptional quality. This was down to an incredible effort led by you all, with a focus and dedication that was a joy to be involved in.”

Nicola Catton | Senior Project Director, PMC
Rolling Stone: The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century - so far

The Results

By project completion, Rolling Stone had successfully moved decades worth of digital content from their former system over to WordPress and was able to launch the new online expression of their beloved brand with complete confidence. Launch day proved that the focus on code quality and Quality Assurance paid off, with a public release without any hiccups. The business is now positioned to build on its strong historical foundation and move forward into the next phase of growth.

Key Takeaways

  • Smooth as silk launch day
  • Large and complex data migration
  • Improved editorial experience