Human Made’s approach to Gutenberg? Don’t repeat yourself.

Libby Barker, a Senior Project Manager, and K. Adam White, a Senior Developer, both from Human Made, spoke about their approach to working with clients on Gutenberg projects, even before its recent official launch in WordPress 5.0. This talk was delivered on November 13 at BigWP NYC, a gathering of developers and product people who work on WordPress applications at scale.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Human Made started with the blocks already available in Gutenberg, and customized from there. Rather than spending time and effort building blocks from scratch, they were able to give clients more control of design elements and a better editing experience.

Any Gutenberg block might turn out to be reusable on another page, or in another layout. In one example they shared, the Human Made team found that an element built for a site’s homepage could double as a recirculation module at the bottom of single posts or pages, too.

Watch the talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.

Bringing AMP and Gutenberg Readiness to Setka

How the Setka Editor team built AMP compatibility into their custom post design tool

At our latest enterprise WordPress meetup in New York on November 13, Katya Bazilevskaya, Cofounder and CEO at Setka, talked about building the Setka Editor to be Gutenberg-ready and AMP-ready. The Setka Editor is a powerful tool for building beautiful longform stories out of building blocks, all optimized for mobile with full Google AMP integration.

The Setka team transformed WordPress galleries, javascript libraries, and even animations into AMP-ready HTML elements, speeding up mobile load times and giving users a lightning-fast experience.

Modern CSS approaches available in AMP help cut down on time to First Meaningful Paint, and Setka users are seeing the difference.

Watch Katya’s talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.

Push Notifications at Scale at the New York Post

How The New York Post uses WordPress to manage push notifications for a busy newsroom

Remy Stern, Chief Digital Officer at the New York Post, our hosts at BigWP NYC on November 13, led off the presentations with an explanation on how they use WordPress.com VIP to send thousands and thousands of push notifications, email alerts, and to control their breaking news alerts on the web, too.

Why use WordPress to manage notifications? It’s the central tool for workflow in their newsroom, and reduces the risk of errors by keeping things in one familiar system with a consistent user experience. As a bonus, that helps things move quickly.

“Speed really matters when you’re sending out breaking news push notifications.”

Maropost, Urban Airship, and even Apple News are all in the notifications mix for the New York Post, all managed from inside their WordPress admin.

Watch Remy’s talk in full:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November BigWP playlist.

The Sun’s World Cup Coverage Shines with WordPress

Two years on from joining the VIP program, The Sun’s WordPress-powered website has grown steadily to become the UK’s biggest digital commercial news website, with over 30 million unique users each month – that’s fast approaching half the UK’s total population.

Sport, and specifically soccer, has always been a key part of The Sun’s offering; and with England headed to the summer’s World Cup in Russia, the newsroom were keen to make the most of the opportunity.

In a characteristically cheeky talk at our recent London BigWP event, The Sun’s head of newsroom systems, Joel Davies described how they were able to create a new destination section, with the ambition to cement The Sun’s brand as the ‘home of the football fan’.

The new section, built and launched in three months, incorporated a new mobile-first design, reflecting the fact that 90% of traffic was mobile, with full-screen teasers, interactive on-page components, plus new commercial slots and navigation.

Joel explained some of the design elements and special content features the team developed, making full use of the flexibility offered by the WordPress platform. They used the Shortcake plugin, a precursor to the new Gutenberg editor’s block concept, to construct complex page layouts, rendered on the front end by React components.

They produced just under 100 articles per day during the tournament, and almost 1,000 videos, viewed a total of 11.5 million times. The World Cup section alone drew 23 million unique visitors over the course of the competition, with a return rate of 45%. (Sadly, the England team returned empty handed.)

Choosing the Right Multilingual Solution for Enterprise Development

The idea of multilingual web publishing sounds straightforward enough. A publisher operating in multiple countries, or in a country where multiple languages are spoken, needs the ability to manage content – as well as site features like navigation – in multiple languages.

But having worked on many such projects in my career, I can assure you that multilingual publishing means different things in different situations. Is content always created in one particular language, then translated into the others? Or can content originate in any of the operational languages? Is every piece of content translated? If so, when, and by whom? If not, what do you do when a piece of content isn’t available in the language being viewed?

WordPress has been fully translated into dozens of languages, from Afrikaans and Albanian to Vietnamese and Welsh; but it doesn’t have a built-in solution for multilingual operation. While that might initially seem like a negative, it means there is scope for a number of different approaches, reflecting the different scenarios and workflows associated with multilingual publishing.

At last month’s Big WP event in London, Giuseppe Mazzapica from VIP agency partner Inpsyde reviewed the approaches taken by some of the best known WordPress plugins, noting their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Inpsyde are, of course, the agency behind Multilingual Press, the multilingual plugin we use most often at VIP. Its approach, based on the multi-site mode built into WordPress, stays closest to ‘normal’ WordPress operation. This means other functions, including third-party plugins, are much more likely to work without workarounds.

But the VIP platform also supports other solutions, which may be a better fit for certain clients, their requirements, and their workflows. Our engineers are always happy to talk through the workflow needs of any given project, and help our clients make the right choice.

Thanks to Chrissy at Inpsyde for the beautiful featured image on this post!

Using Gutenberg in production: one agency’s first-hand experience

The WordPress core development team has just announced a draft schedule for the next WordPress release, which will include the long-awaited new editing component, Gutenberg. But for many leading WordPress agencies, Gutenberg has been a fact of life for several months already.

One such agency is VIP partner Big Bite, whose technical director Jason Agnew described the experience of implementing Gutenberg on a number of enterprise-level projects at September’s BigWP gathering in London, hosted by our friends at News UK.

Big Bite have recently been working with a major global bank, to produce an internal news app for consumption primarily via iOS and Android smartphone apps, but managed in WordPress using Gutenberg blocks. And as profiled here previously, they delivered a block-based solution for Amnesty International to build and manage pages in visual form.

Jason describes how Big Bite nominated one team member to become their in-house expert, giving him the time he needed to build his own knowledge, which he could then spread across the company.

Developing with Gutenberg can feel a lot slower, Jason says: ‘you can’t really build the site until you have all the blocks.’ His rule of thumb is that it takes a week to build a block: but if a client is in it for the long run, ‘it’s definitely worth the investment now.’

Discussing Gutenberg with clients has been really easy: some even described the authoring experience as ‘fun’, which is rare indeed in the world of content management systems! Project owners expressed concern at using beta or newly-merged functionality; but Jason has explained that it’s worth a little bit of risk now, in order to save a lot of upgrade costs in the future. ‘Most people can relate to that,’ he says.

VIP has been helping clients and developers prepare for the arrival of Gutenberg. We have a test environment showcasing the Gutenberg experience: just go to testgutenberg.com and start clicking around, no login required. We also have a series of free how-to videos for developers; and a free plugin allowing site owners to manage the rollout of Gutenberg functionality across their site at their own pace.

GovLoop’s Online Community with WordPress

Tell us about GovLoop – what audience does this site serve?

GovLoop primarily serves federal, state, and local government employees, but we’re open to anyone who wants to make government more effective.  I used to work at Department of Homeland Security and always wished there was an online community to meet others in government and learn best practices from other agencies.  We launched in June 2008 and now have over 150,000 members who use GovLoop to get new ideas and tips to do their job better.

8d8b3263-5ac5-4e0c-a3e8-cb2b574a9860

How has your content strategy changed over the past few years?

Our content strategy has evolved over the years by being extremely focused on our users.  Our original premise was to create a “Facebook for Government” and we heavily focused on features like profiles, friending, groups, and discussion profiles.  Over time, we found people use GovLoop more as a knowledge network so we changed our content strategy to include more original content, research guides, and free online trainings – all done with a practical, how-to, and community-oriented voice.

Why did you choose WordPress?

Ning was a great first step for us to get a social network with basic functionality (blogs, profiles, discussions, groups).  Over time as our community grew, we had a number of features we wanted to add and core development needs that wasn’t in their roadmap, which led us to explore other CMS options and ending up with WordPress – with BuddyPress and bbPress – as our decision.

As I was looking into new platforms for GovLoop, my focus was on choosing an open source option that had a large developer community building both the core platform and plug-ins.  This would allow us to tap into a large reservoir of talent and give us freedom if we wanted to launch new features ourselves.  This quickly narrowed it down to a few options and we ended up choosing WordPress as there’s been a number of great media and social properties built on it.  Plus, we’ve used WordPress for our major conference website (nextgengovt.com) so we already had developed some internal expertise on the platform.

5374715c-6d01-410f-821a-c8a48883d5fc

What were the challenges you ran into when migrating this site from Ning to WordPress?

When we started this project, I quickly realized the biggest complexity would be the data migration – moving over hundreds of thousands of blogs, discussions, comments, member profiles is an insane task.  I reached out to Peter Slutsky of Automattic for a top-notch WordPress developer group and he put us in touch with a great team to help us on this journey – 10up.  The 10up team did a fantastic job scoping out the migration, testing and retesting migration on our beta site, and in the end it turned out great.  In the end, we successfully moved millions of data points from Ning to WordPress/BuddyPress/bbPress without a hitch.

The whole 10up team was fantastic and particularly wanted to shout out Dan Blaker, our project manager, and Matt Gross, who did a lot of the heavy lifting.  Also, I want to give a shout-out to Jeff Ribeira on the GovLoop team who led the project internally.

Much of GovLoop is centered around social network and viral content. How did you address this component of the website using WordPress and plugins like BuddyPress?

The core of GovLoop is our community.  We addressed the social nature of GovLoop in a couple key ways.  We used BuddyPress for social networking and profiles, as well as bbPress for groups and forums.  We also heavily integrated with our marketing automation software Eloqua so we are able to provide custom messaging and new content based on their profiles.  In terms of additional technical specs, we are hosted with Innoscale, which has greatly improved the speed of the site and does BuddyPress hosting well.  We’ve also integrated Cloudflare for SSL and as our CDN.

901f0ae9-9396-42fa-8077-a4febe82d314

How has your audience responded to the redesign?

They’ve reacted great to the redesign.  Not only is traffic up, we’ve received feedback like “Love the new website! It is so great to see how much has gone into the site over the past few years! The site is fantastic! “.  A key part of this redesign was prioritizing our key resources that we spend a ton of time producing (research guides on topics like Cybersecurity) – we’ve seen a large increase in traffic to this area based on our new UI.  I’m particularly proud of how we’ve created a visually appealing way to sort through resources by topic and by product – check it out at govloop.com/resources

What’s next for GovLoop and what can our audience look forward to in terms of new technology that you’re adding to the site?

Our big push for 2015 is into online learning.  In 2014, over 30,000 people took our free online training and folks are asking for more.  In response, we expanded our training offerings and just launched this week  “GovLoop Academy”,a free online learning academy with 25+ interactive courses and mentoring components.  GovLoop Academy is integrated into GovLoop.com and is one instance of a lightweight WordPress-based LMS that we developed. We’ve had a number of government agencies and associations express interest in using this learning platform, so we have white-labeled the LMS platform in a government-secure cloud.  If anyone is interested in this project, I’d love to hear from them at steve at govloop.com.  We are working again with 10up on this project and are looking to share back with the WordPress community.

58838c0f-5cd3-4c9e-a715-48fea3ddd019

GlobalNews.ca Makes Embedding Media Easy with the Media Explorer

At the Toronto Big Media & Enterprise Meetup earlier this year, Keith Robinson and Imran Nathani from GlobalNews.ca presented their customization of the Media Explorer plugin. The goal: To make inserting and embedding media as efficient as possible for their editors.

The Media Explorer plugin was a joint project between WordPress.com VIP and Code for the People, which allows editors to quickly and easily insert tweets and YouTube videos straight from the WordPress dashboard “Edit Post” page. The plugin is easily extendable, and allows for you to include alternate media sources.

Twitter search
Media Explorer

The GlobalNews.ca team decided to customize and extend the plugin to include other video and photo sources that their editors commonly use. In doing so, they allowed their editors to centralize their workflow within the WordPress dashboard. Watch their 10-minute “Flash Talk” below to see their customizations in action, and then check out our recent Q&A with Keith Robinson, manager of digital products, and Imran Nathani, web development architect.

What was the thinking behind extending the media explorer?
Keith: We have dozens of active producers, and making it really easy for them to curate content into story posts is a big part of what we do. Anything we can do to make their job even incrementally easier has terrific benefits.

With WordPress, we want to get our producers comfortable with one user interface, rather than telling them to learn a new system or look in a different place for each new feature. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and getting people to do almost everything they need in a post, and then press a button and move on.

It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS.

When we first saw the Media Explorer plugin in the fall, we saw how easy it was to curate Twitter and YouTube content straight from within the post. It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS. Imran pointed out that it was easily extendable and can be adapted for our own media. We’re trying to get as much rich content as possible into every story post, to hold readers a little longer, and Imran said, why not use the Media Explorer to do that?

By extending the Media Explorer plugin, editors can now easily search the NewsCred photo library without leaving the dashboard.
By extending the Media Explorer plugin, editors can now easily search the NewsCred photo library without leaving the dashboard.
The custom tool also allows editors to quickly crop images before inserting them into the post.
The custom tool also allows editors to quickly crop images before inserting them into the post.

What was the previous workflow like?
Imran: We’re a very video rich site because we’re a broadcaster, and with the way the video management was first integrated into WordPress, it was a separate screen. You had to go in and search in a separate interface, and then grab a short code and then bring that over into the story editor and cut and paste it in there somewhere. That may not sound like the most onerous workflow in the world, but it’s all about making things that much easier.

Embedding videos used to be a tedious process requiring multiple browser tabs. Now editors can quickly search and embed videos right from the WordPress admin.
Embedding videos used to be a tedious process requiring multiple browser tabs. Now editors can quickly search and embed videos right from the WordPress admin.
The custom tool that the GlobalNews.ca team built also lets editors create video players and carousels on the fly.
The custom tool that the GlobalNews.ca team built also lets editors create video players and carousels on the fly.

How has your tool evolved?
Imran: Our video producers are really localized, so we’ve given the producers an option to search video based on a specific region. For the first round of development, the user would just select a video and insert it. For the second round of development, we started thinking about groups of videos. This was mostly triggered by Rob Ford being on Jimmy Kimmel Live — we wanted to be able to show all the clips together. So, we created the option of a video gallery.

As for the NewsCred integration, sometimes the images that come through are really large, and our editors need to crop the photo to something that suits our site’s dimensions. So, we made it possible for editors to choose the photo and crop it, lower the quality for web, and then add it to the media library for use.

What’s the feedback from the producers been like?
Keith: Our video producers really like it a lot, and — the difference in the process before and after is pretty extreme. They’ve expressed that they really do find it a lot easier.

Since we’ve added this, there’s been more video going into posts, a lot more embedding of tweets right into the post. And I like that because it gets people away from using other outside tools to curate social media, and this allows you to do all the curation right within your post and house all of your own content.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group. 

Why Choose WordPress CMS to Build Websites: A Government Perspective

WordPress.com VIP Director of Platform Services, Peter Slutsky, presented to the DigitalGov University about using WordPress CMS to build government websites, along with Dan Munz, from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, last year.

DigitalGov is brought to you by the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies in the U.S. General Services Administration and their job is to help government agencies build a 21st century digital government.

“Can WordPress be a full-fledged CMS? Our experience is absolutely yes, it can.” — Dan Munz, Deputy Assistant Director for Consumer Engagement at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In this presentation you’ll learn:

  • How to determine if WordPress is a good option for your agency
  • The important technical considerations
  • The biggest challenges and successes CFPB had with implementing WordPress
  • The resources you’ll need to implement it and keep it sustainable
  • How to get buy-in and make the business case to switch/choose WordPress
  • And a Q&A from the attendees

Below is the video of the presentation: 

If you’re looking for information about government sites using WordPress, check out our spotlight on Building Government Websites with WordPress CMS or get in touch directly with the WordPress.com VIP team.

Trends in Enterprise WordPress Content

Enterprises and big brands are always looking for better ways to get their content featured, shared, and visible. In this presentation, which was presented at WordCamp Switzerland earlier this month by WordPress.com VIP Global Services Manager Sara Rosso, we examine some of the latest trends related to enterprise content and how any site can take advantage of the experimentation happening on big volume and innovative publishers using WordPress.

Trends in Enterprise WordPress Content

The presentation is broken down in sections which focus on longform, newsletters, microsites/corporate sites, social media, multi-source & interactive content, and comments.

Longform: Automattic (makers of WordPress.com & WordPress.com VIP) recently acquired Longreads, a content curation and discovery site which features articles longer than 1,500 words. The site lets you search for longreads based on subject or reading length, and the number of sites which are featuring longer content has doubled (to more than 3,000 domains).

“The best pieces are either short, snappy and topical, or they are long analysis.” — Kevin Delaney, Editor-in-Chief, Quartz.

Quartz believes so strongly in the social media success of either short or long pieces, they have even made up a “V-chart” (in the presentation!) which shows mid-length stories just aren’t as compelling to be shared. Longform is growing, and the lack of time-sensitivity on that content means that it has life long beyond its publishing date.

Newsletters: We’ve seen an uptick in sites using newsletters to not only speak directly to their readers, but to also as a way to curate and surface content to them. After several conversations with VIPs at our annual VIP Workshop, it became really clear that it’s working for them, too, with good open rates and subscriptions continuing to climb. Newsletters are featuring popular content or even automated summary content directly through WordPress, and they can be sent several times a day based on the reader’s location or their interests. We’ve seen everyone from Harvard Business Review to USA Today to The Wall Street Journal increase their experimentation in newsletters and curating content directly for their readers. We examine Quartz’s popular Daily Brief in further detail in the presentation.

Microsites / Corporate sites: We’re continuing to see adoption by enterprises for their microsites and corporate sites, even in sectors like banking & finance, and highlight sites like Google Ventures, Facebook’s Newsroom, and other sites in the European Union in the presentation.

Social Media: Social media networks continue to be important organic content discovery channels for enterprise WordPress sites, but they are increasingly hard to control as content distribution channels. There’s no guarantee all of your followers or fans will see your updates or articles (thanks to continually changing algorithms and pay-for-play), which makes solutions like newsletters even more attractive. One thing is clear, however: any content being published on a WordPress site must be both easy to share and ready to share, and as the previews and excerpts Twitter and Facebook feature from links shared on their networks change, so must the publisher be ready to adapt their content as well.

Multi-source & Interactive Content: After the success of The New York Times’ interactive “Snowfall,” a lot of sites felt the pressure to produce something as engaging and interactive.

“Everyone wants to snow-fall now, every day, all desks” — Jill Abramson, The New York Times Executive Editor (former).

We’re seeing WordPress being pushed and integrated in news ways — sometimes it’s the integrator of content from multiple sources and formats, and sometimes it’s the driver of content as a web app. Enterprise sites are incorporating interactive graphs and other media which keep the user coming back (and clicking around).

Comments: Comments continue to divide communities and publishing rooms, too. There’s such a spectrum of sites who have abolished comments altogether, to those who feature reader comment prominently integrated into their articles, and those who have tried to change the way people comment entirely by focusing on just a piece of the article or by directing & guiding the commenter’s viewpoint related to a specific point.

“…asking guiding questions and showing examples of ‘good’ comments focuses and elevates the conversation overall.” — Marc Lavallee, Deputy editor of interactive news, The New York Times.

Below is the complete deck from the presentation Trends in Enterprise WordPress Content (also on Slideshare). Once the video’s up on WordPress.tv, we’ll embed that here as well!

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.

*Update: the slides, which were presented earlier this month, erroneously position Jill Abramson at Wired. She was at The New York Times, and is now formerly at The NYT.  

Ready to get started?

Drop us a note.

No matter where you are in the planning process, we’re happy to help, and we’re actual humans here on the other side of the form. 👋 We’re here to discuss your challenges and plans, evaluate your existing resources or a potential partner, or even make some initial recommendations. And, of course, we’re here to help any time you’re in the market for some robust WordPress awesomeness.