11 Jan 2021

YouGov goes all-in on headless Wagtail

We’re on course to move 20,000+ articles across 30+ websites in 40+ locales to Wagtail, taking full advantage of Wagtail’s headless approach, multisite and internationalisation capabilities. Here is our story so far.

Pawel Prochot​

Pawel Prochot​

YouGov Online Director
YouGov Engineering Team (December 2018)

YouGov Engineering Team (December 2018)

Why Wagtail?  

Our existing YouGov CMS was based on one of the major CMS packages in the Django ecosystem. That project started moving in a direction which we did not want to follow. This meant we had to look for alternatives. Being invested in Django we researched the CMS solutions based on it first. 

It was clear Wagtail would be the top contender. It’s open source (with a sensible license), it has strong GitHub activity and popularity expressed in stars, engagement in pull requests, or speed at which the issues are addressed and crucially for us, it’s a headless CMS. 

In our search for a modern and scalable CMS, Wagtail consistently delivered on our requirements.

Dipping our toes in the water  

To get started with Wagtail, one of our lead Software Engineers evaluated it locally to confirm the soundness of the project and the claims it made. We have then gone through analysis of how we would go about moving existing and building new products with Wagtail. 

The outcome of this analysis was positive and we found it would enable us to achieve everything we were planning to do. Then we selected a new project we were about to embark on and decided to build it entirely on Wagtail. This would allow us to familiarise ourselves with it and get a good feel for what it is like to work with it both on development side as well as authoring.

This project turned out to be a success and Wagtail’s position at YouGov was cemented.

Supporting the Wagtail project 

Like all internet companies YouGov is built on free, open source software. Some of our own engineers are active contributors in open source projects and we also open source some of what we build in-house. So the world of open source is not alien to us, we understand how important various support structures are to these projects. 

Wagtail is professionally supported and maintained by Torchbox. Once we’ve decided to start using it more wildly we reached out to see how we can help. It turned out the most impactful way was to fund core development and we’re co-funding the Telepath sprint to make streamfield even faster and more flexible. 

What’s next 

We’ve already deployed Wagtail as a headless CMS driving Angular front ends - see business.yougov.com and corporate.yougov.com, both launched in 2020. The plan is to manage all CMS-able content with Wagtail, including multilingual web content and other kinds of content like YouGov’s native mobile apps.

Watch this space.