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Maciej Szymczuk
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Developing a Multi-Billion-Dollar Website for Skyscanner

London, UK

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Skyscanner
Layer 28

Since 2005, the Order of Code team (OoC) has worked on several projects for Skyscanner, one of the world’s most popular flight aggregators and metasearch engines.

Today, Skyscanner is being used by over 80 million users and is available in 65 countries. Order of Code, at first a Polish branch of Skyscanner, later established as a software house supporting the company, implemented a range of solutions that helped Skyscanner grow and succeed in their field.

The Challenge

Before Skyscanner became a billion-dollar company with millions of users worldwide, it employed a 3-person team back in 2005. As a start-up seeking a way to grow, the company decided to establish a Polish development branch, which evolved into a standalone software development company – Order of Code – now a part of SoftwareHut, and TenderHut capital group.

Since the beginning, OoC supported Skyscanner with development and testing of the website’s key features. The work included the news site, reach feature widgets, a CMS, mobile application testing, web scraping, website development and testing, SEO, website localisation, and automatic advert generation.

Results

For each project, the OoC team implemented cutting-edge solutions that helped Skyscanner establish themselves as what is now one of the world’s most popular flight aggregator and metasearch engines.

From Big Data solutions, website analysis & optimisation, SEO, web scraping, to advanced web & mobile development and testing, Order of Code ensured a high-quality service that helped Skyscanner to grow.

Key Projects

Website Development and Testing

Since 2005, Order of Code provided Skyscanner with various features to create a website supporting a large amount of data, localisation, that’s also published in multiple languages. Over time, the team was involved in supporting Skyscanner with web page creation, localisation, API, data mining, and testing. The OoC team was also responsible for maintaining and managing customer feedback.

To ensure the highest quality of solutions implemented on Skyscanner’s website, OoC performed numerous tests, including; usability and functional testing, automated and regression testing, localisation, performance, and A/B testing.

Web Scraping

With vast amounts of data accessible on countless airline, hotel, and travel booking websites, to manually gather such information is near-impossible. To automate the process of collecting data for Skyscanner, OoC created software for online gathering of ticket pricing data for the selected airlines.

Later, a script for gathering data from competing websites was created, to offer comparisons on Skyscanner’s page. With data collected by Skyscanner, users could then compare ticket prices from various airlines.

Website Localisation

In 2005, a localisation system was considered prohibitively expensive for a 3-person start-up. But as Skyscanner’s business model required translating the copy into multiple languages, Order of Code proposed a solution based on several steps:

  • Extraction of localisable resources from source code
  • Creation of a central repository for localisable data from various sources
  • Development of automatic text localisation process
  • Establishing cooperation with translators and translation agencies

The team modified the websites’ code, created a separate database, in addition to ordering professional translations. As translations were managed by a single system and loaded through a quality assurance tool, new files with localised resources were created automatically.

This system proved to be efficient for all localised languages and resulted in the growth of organic traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

To avoid being penalised by Google algorithms, Skyscanner decided to optimise their content for SEO. At the same time, the website was also not optimised for search engines like Bing, Yandex, Baidu or Seznam, and eventually ranked poorly for target keywords.

To better rank for desired search terms and drive consistent organic traffic, OoC implemented a strategy for webpages, including a redesign. To better support multiple languages (20 at the time), Skyscanner decided to host their websites for main markets on country-specific domains. An algorithm for building a webpage hierarchy was also modified to be specific and unique for each market in which Skyscanner operated.

An innovation proposed by Order of Code was to implement a localisation solution on a global scale for Skyscanner. This allowed for creating translations that preserve proper grammar forms. This change had one of the greatest impacts on the growth of organic traffic in localised languages. As a result of all SEO improvements, the site had seen a continuing growth of organic traffic.

Mobile Application Testing

As the number of mobile users began to grow in 2010, Skyscanner decided to develop a mobile app. Order of Code reviewed a draft of the application to ensure localisation and planned integrations with the localisation system itself deployed at the company were in-sync.

While the application was developed by an external company, OoC evaluated their work following Agile methodology principles. The team also tested the app’s usability, functionality, localisation, performance and integration. The resulting application received excellent user reviews, reaching top spots in Apple App Store among free iOS apps in several countries.

Rich Feature Widgets

To support their marketing campaigns, Skyscanner needed JavaScript widgets for third-party websites. The project required ensuring the widget’s security, e.g., by being resistant to XSS, as well as to ensure that the layout cannot be changed by hosts of third-party websites.

The Order of Code’s team provided Skyscanner with widgets that met these criteria, including special identifiers and creating a resetting style sheet. The team also carefully prepared the JavaScript code to isolate widgets as well.

CMS as a Data Source

To meet the growing demand for SEO articles on Skyscanner’s website, the company decided to implement a CMS supporting a complex editorial workflow. For the best visibility, the content had to be optimised for a variety of display sizes.

Scope of work included design and implementation of the architecture based on multiple servers and technologies to ensure scalability and meet the needs of different user roles. Choosing Drupal as a CMS offered much-needed features range. The system was also resilient to large volumes of visitors.

Automating Advert Generation

To generate a considerable amount of advertisements, (over 100 000), and export them to third-party systems, Order of Code developed a tool for ad creation. The solution was a tool featuring text formatting and localisation, speeding up the process of creating ads.

This tool used a standard MS Excel VBA application with code optimised for performance. With a connection to the existing database consisting of popular destinations, translations, and prices, the instrument allowed for a dynamic generation of hundreds of ads matching marketing campaigns. Export files could then be uploaded to third-party companies such as Efficient Frontier and Marion.

News Site in Movable Type

In times when content marketing wasn’t even a thing, Skyscanner decided to create a news site as a place for writing, publishing and managing industry news and articles. The main objectives for the site were to resemble Skyscanner’s look and feel, but also to support multiple languages.

The development team decided on Movable Type as a go-to CMS, given its popularity at the time, ease of use, and a vast array of features it provided. Tested with both copywriters and QA specialists, the CMS proved to be a good match for Skyscanner’s needs.

As a result, Skyscanner’s news site in Movable Type streamlined the process of creating and uploading rich-media articles, supporting multiple languages for a variety of users.

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Let’s talk over coffee.

Maciej Szymczuk
Maciej Szymczuk
Regional Director
USA
(+1) 929 262 9149
maciej.szymczuk@softwarehut.com
Tamka 36 lok. 12
00-934 Warsaw, Poland
(+48) 603 607 517

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