We all know Reddit – the online community where users vote on content. Today, we on the WordPress.com VIP team are excited to be part of a new chapter in Reddit history as they launch a hub for that original content, Upvoted.com. Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, explains a bit more about what Upvoted is for the Reddit community…
This launch of upvoted.com is the next logical step in celebrating the Reddit community: a hub for original content to give Redditors credit, as well as go beyond the original story to learn more about the people and ideas that bubble up across this site of 202 million monthly users (bigger than Brazil!). And of course, you can discuss every piece of original content at r/upvoted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ahead of the upcoming U.S. midterm elections in November, we spoke with Ben Ostrower, Principal and Creative Director of Wide Eye Creative, a creative web design & development studio who has built some of the recent entries of high profile WordPress sites in the government space.
Why WordPress? There are so many players in the CMS space, especially in the political realm, why do you choose WordPress as your go-to software?
When I started Wide Eye, we were doing almost exclusively work with Drupal. It filled a lot of our client’s needs and it’s a great tool for some purposes, but it was always cumbersome. The way Drupal was built, it just kept imposing limits on design, which, as a designer, was incredibly frustrating. My developers would always say: “no, it’s really hard to do that because it’s not the way ‘xyz’ module is built”. It was as though the materials we were using to build a house were guiding the design and architecture, not the other way around.
When I first started trying WordPress in early 2010 or so, it was already fairly mature and I wondered immediately why I hadn’t been using it earlier. The structure of it was just incredibly intuitive to me – as though it had been created by designers, not just developers. Suddenly it became much more possible to realize my own creative vision for a project.
On top of it, and almost more importantly, it was more user-friendly for our clients. People would just immediately “get” the interface and how content can be controlled and structured. I saw clients generally become more self-sufficient with the management of their own sites, and our exposure to followup questions, bug-fixes and hand-holding went way down. Since then, while we’ve used Drupal for a handful of select database projects, we’ve used WordPress for literally everything else – every campaign site we’ve done since 2010 has been on WordPress. It’s been a great marriage.
What can you do using WordPress that you can’t do using locked-down / proprietary software, like NationBuilder?
We pride ourselves on intimately tailoring each site to a project’s goals. WordPress, especially with the Advanced Custom Fields plugin integrated, gives us the ability to deliver really granular control over page templates to a client — i.e. turning a banner image on and off, changing the color of a button, toggling the positioning of elements, the list goes on…Plus, we have a wealth of excellent plugins available to us that we can use to quickly extend functionality. Ultimately, when we train clients on the backend of their site, we consistently hear them say: “Wow. I’ve never had that level of control before.” That level of customization just isn’t as possible with a proprietary framework. NationBuilder is an impressive tool and a good solution for some campaigns, but, for us, it’s really analogous to the difference between a fully bespoke suit versus tailoring a suit purchased off the rack.
You have a great client list and you work with some high profile politicians. What sites have you done that are most exciting to you?
We love all of our clients – that’s not hyperbole, but the most exciting ones are when we work with a campaign or organization that trusts us as a creative partner and is willing to take risks and try new things. Brandon English and his great team at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for example, actively collaborated with us to innovate the way stale old email sign up forms have worked for years. Now a multi-field form operates in the space of a single input field, sending the input data to Blue State Digital’s tools with each click forward instead of form fields stacked one on top of another with a big button below. As a client, they truly understood the value of user friendliness and the capacity that good design has to fuel better, more successful results.
Chris Coons’ Senate campaign in Delaware is another client that worked with us on something that we call a “smart website” – calls to action that change for a user based on their prior engagement with the campaign. That was really fun.
Our other great scenario, as least from a design perspective, is where we have the challenge of striking a difficult creative balance for a client: i.e. “we want to look simultaneously polished and savvy, but also modest and grassroots”, “conservative and classical, but also innovative and cutting-edge”, etc… That’s always fun.
Do you have any tips and tricks to share that could help other developers and designers who are building websites in the area of politics and non-profit?
Don’t approach political and non-profit projects with any less of a standard of quality than you would for a corporate client like Nike or Apple. Quality matters. Audiences are more sensitive and savvy than ever before to design and functionality – when something is subpar (doesn’t look good or doesn’t work the way a user expects), it diminishes the campaign’s or organization’s message.
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid – one of the first things you learn in filmmaking class. Keep your message simple and your actions focused. By packing lots of information and options in a small space, you’re diminishing the impact of everything.
Don’t be afraid to provoke emotion with your designs – you’re appealing to a visitor to take action. You can’t just expect them to click a donate button because it’s there, you need to tell them “why”.
Interaction matters. With the rise of CSS3 and HTML5 over the last several years, use animation to give visitors the sense that the website is alive and responsive. Buttons should react when you hover, form fields should highlight, etc.
Look 5-10 years into the future – what do you think the future will look like when it comes to technology in politics, campaigns and in the government arena?
1. Websites, ads and apps will continue to become smarter. Messages and calls to action will be more and more targeted and segmented based on a visitor’s profile. By 2016, the era of visitors all receiving the same general, default call-to-action on a website landing page will be over.
2. Mobile will continue to become even more important. Designers and developers will need to stay ahead of the curve on that.
3. Ads, emails and appeals for people to take action and donate will only become more and more ubiquitous. There are going to be more and smarter ways to reach people.
4. Not that it’s not happening already, but digital campaigns will be more and more driven by data, analytics and math.
What new technology are you using that you’re most excited about?
There are a lot of technologies that we’re keeping a close eye on. We’re really excited to play with NGP VAN’s new API, and we’d really like to be building more around Google’s open source civic tools.
Thank you to Ben – to learn more about Wide Eye Creative or to see some more case studies, please visit their website! Visit the WordPress.com VIP site for more information about WordPress in Government or get in touch.
Meredith Vieira has had quite a career. You probably know her from years as co-anchor of the Today Show or maybe as host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Well, starting this fall, you’ll know has as host of The Meredith Vieira Show, which is slated to launch September 8th on NBC. And, starting this week, you’ll know her as the newest member of the WordPress.com VIP family – the brand spankin’ new website for the television show is live and we’re super excited to welcome Meredith and her team! Good luck with the show launch!
Welcome to Alberta Motor Association (AMA), who recently launched on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting! The AMA is a non-profit membership organization serving Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and is affiliated with the Canadian Automobile Association and AAA.
The Alberta Motor Association provides its members with roadside assistance service, a range of auto touring and leisure travel services, insurance services, and member discounts with partners.
The AMA site is packed full of features, including the ability for potential members to get a quote for their life, home, or auto insurance needs directly online.
The AMA also offers extensive travel planning as a benefit, and members can plan their next cruise, vacation, or even business trip using their customized travel planning tool.
Congrats and welcome to RoadLoans.com, who just launched on WordPress.com VIP Hosting. It’s a great example of a corporate site packed with information & tools for their customers!
RoadLoans’ guides to buying, getting loans, and other helpful information when it comes to test driving, buying, and financing a car are also supplemented with their shopping tools which help consumers make decisions on-the-go about which car is right for them.
The RoadLoans team also regularly blogs to keep their users informed about the latest happenings around the automotive world, and some tips & tricks, too.
TIME’s InStyle launched new desktop and mobile designs of their popular fashion and lifestyle news site, InStyle’s What’s Right Now, on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting.
The fully responsive site features up-to-the-minute articles about fashion and celebrity news and has some great new features which they detail in their site refresh post:
“…effortless sharing from everywhere; a new way to save your favorite finds; bigger, bolder images; and a new How-To section packed with videos, slide shows and even a few GIFS that will show you how to get the latest fashion and beauty looks. What’s more, you’ll find the same clean and intuitive layouts on every device and screen size.”
The site also tracks and showcases the stories which are most popular and are getting shared on various social media channels:
The WordPress.com VIP team was excited to help this get launched! Congrats to the InStyle team.
The team has expanded to address all the site’s verticals and Nate explains the aim of the site in his launch post, What the Fox Knows.
The breadth of our coverage will be much clearer at this new version of FiveThirtyEight, which is launching Monday under the auspices of ESPN. We’ve expanded our staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and counting. Few of them will focus on politics exclusively; instead, our coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports.
Here’s the FiveThirtyEight team counting down the launch of the new site:
In true FiveThirtyEight style, they even predict the probability of you reaching the new site during the launch (WordPress.com VIP’s note: only during DNS propagation…after which we predict 99.9999% uptime!)
We're live! But there's a 70.617854% chance you'll be able to see http://t.co/MsE0s1lg4P. The site is rolling out in stages. So sit tight!
TIME.com just launched a great responsive redesign of their homepage, and the site is now hosted on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting! The popular homepage joins their numerous other TIME sites already running on the WordPress.com VIP infrastructure.
Their new design also focuses on their growing mobile audience:
…the new site is designed especially for busy, mobile readers. In fact, our data suggest that nearly half of you are currently reading this on a smartphone or tablet. TIME invented the news brief; the original magazine included 100 stories, none longer than 400 words. Fittingly, the centerpiece of our new home page is The Brief, a fast take on the 12 stories you need to know about right now, as chosen by TIME’s editors. No matter where you enter our site, you’ll get a continuous story feed on every page that allows you to move around TIME.com for a quick take on what’s happening now.
“Consequence of Sound is now mobile responsive and will look just as great on your iPhone or Android phone as it does on the web,” site creator Alex Young wrote. “The homepage is easier to navigate, our content is better presented, and Festival Outlook has been completely revamped.”
The Consequence of Sound team is planning on rolling out new features in the coming weeks, including the ability to personalize the homepage.
“In other words, if you no longer want to see stories about Kanye West, you no longer have to see stories about Kanye West,” Young writes. “Your settings will also carry over to our mobile app, which will also soon get a fresh update.”
We’re excited to bring such a beautiful and dynamic site onto WordPress.com VIP. Congrats again to the team!
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