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.)
Automattic is putting together our first ever Design Awards, and we want you to be a part of it.
Earlier this year, in his talk at WordCamp Europe, John Maeda announced plans for an Automattic Design Award, to highlight and encourage examples of great design work in the WordPress ecosystem.
With WordCamp US fast approaching, we are now inviting entries at automatticdesignaward.blog. Submissions need to be in by November 16, with the announcement of the winners on December 3.
There will be nine awards in total, with three trophies presented in each of three categories – Best Site, Best Solution and Best Style.
We aren’t just looking for your prettiest pieces of work. At WordCamp Europe, John talked about the need for ‘deep design’ – rather than just sprayed-on design, added as an afterthought. Too often we focus simply on shipping; and whilst that may have been acceptable in the past, today’s users know they can and should expect more.
So we’re looking for work which demonstrates thorough processes of discovery, consideration, delivery, and listening to users’ responses.
There are two core eligibility requirements. Submissions must be ready for the arrival of Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor; and they must demonstrate accessibility as a ‘need to have’, not just a ‘nice to have’.
At VIP we’re fortunate to work with some of the most ambitious design and development teams in the WordPress space. We see many examples of smart, sophisticated design in the projects we support; and we’ll be encouraging our clients to put themselves forward. But we’re particularly excited to see what’s happening elsewhere in the ecosystem, especially behind the scenes.
Full details of the awards, the assessment criteria, the judging panel and the beautiful trophies can be found at automatticdesignaward.blog.
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.
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.
Welcome to the September roundup! Even though this is October material, we’d be remiss not to start off with the big news coming out of the Gutenberg project this week, Matt Mullenweg’s Plan for 5.0 update and Gary Pendergast’s follow-up Proposed Scope and Schedule. We’ll keep you updated as 5.0 plans continue to come together.
Meanwhile, there’s lots to catch up on from September. The Online News Association’s annual event is always a highlight of the year and ONA 2018 in Austin was no exception. We came back energized and excited about all of the work going on across the digital journalism community. And thank you to Human Made and News UK for co-hosting our latest BigWP London, with great talks which will be available on YouTube shortly.
Read on for news and updates from across enterprise WordPress, including a new section called, “What We Read,” a carousel of articles (and podcasts) that inspired, informed, and influenced us this month.
Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0.
As mentioned above, plans for the WordPress 5.0 release are starting to take shape. Matt Mullenweg posted a plan and Automattician and core contributor Gary Pendergast gave further details in this proposed scope and schedule, identifying November 19 as the target release date.
Earlier in September, Gutenberg version 3.9 shipped with a host of UX improvements within the editor, in addition to the ability to create reusable templates and import/export reusable blocks.
Peek behind the scenes at the custom blocks powering Amnesty International‘s new platform developed by Big Bite, also embedded in the spotlight below.
News and Releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.
VIP teamed up with Human Made to host Big WP London, featuring talks from 10up, Big Bite, Inpsyde, and News UK. Video from the talks coming soon!
Alley helped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation answer the question, “Does where you live affect how long you live?” by building a life expectancy estimator using data from 73,000 U.S. Census tracts. They also redesigned the Online News Association’s VIP-hosted resource portal just in time for #ONA18.
10up CEO John Eckman shared slides from his talk at WordCamp NYC on rethinking his approach to GDPR and privacy.
If you haven’t checked out the VIP Dashboard for our VIP Go platform, take a look and open a ticket to let us know what you think. (Watch for the first major feature, which will be data sync, arriving over the next few weeks.)
Liveblog v1.9 introduced support for the AMP project, alongside the popular AMP for WordPress plugin. v1.9 also includes enhanced performance for high-traffic liveblogs and support for cross-domain updates (Lobby post).
Spotlight: Amnesty International
Take a video tour of the custom Gutenberg blocks powering Amnesty International’s new platform, built by Big Bite for the new WordPress editor. Their team is also working on one of the largest Gutenberg-built applications to date, with a global financial organization.
VIP take: “Still exchanging Microsoft Word documents with contributors to make edits? Apparently, some publications are still redlining their way to a final draft, while others have made the shift to Google Docs. If you’re happy with the collaborative editing features in Google Docs, try out this add-on to send your drafts straight to your WordPress site.” — @ryansholin
VIP was thrilled to be a part of ONA again in 2018, which went down in Austin, TX from September 13-15.
To kick things off, we and our partners at Alley co-hosted a pre-conference meal where we broke bread with clients and friends. At the conference itself, VIP’s very own Steph Yiu, Ryan Sholin, and Shannon Smith teamed up to present “The Future of Content Creation in WordPress” which gave an inside look at the intersection of publishing, WordPress, and Gutenberg. Ryan also joined a panel on “Remixing Content: Refining Your Workflow to Make Your Work Flow,” sharing tips to make workflows meet your newsroom’s distribution needs without bloating them.
Overall, the VIP team was inspired to see how journalists and newsrooms are using WordPress to create new frontiers in digital publishing. To learn more, visit the VIP-hosted journalists.org.
WAN-IFRA is hosting the Digital Content Expo (DCX) and World Publishing Expo parallel to each other from October 9-11 in Berlin. While the World Expo focuses on print strategies, DCX examines digital trends for content production, distribution, management, and monetization.
WordCamp US is coming to Nashville again on December 7-9. Organizers just announced the fifth round of speakers. November 1 is the deadline to get a printed badge (and share your preferred shirt size).
NICAR is slated for March 7-10 in Newport Beach, California. Sign up for the NICAR mailing list to stay up to date with conference announcements.
The first batches of tickets have dropped for WordCamp Europe! It goes down June 20-22, also in Berlin. While may seem like a long time from now, tickets always sell out, so grab yours fast.
See how Big Bite’s custom blocks streamline publishing for Amnesty International.
Update: Big Bite and Amnesty have rolled many of the features you’ll see below into Benenson, a new open source theme any organization can use.
The most exciting thing around the WordPress community right now is the new editor experience. The Gutenberg project has transformed what it’s like to create content and manage pages and sections. It has also offered a new approach to matching a team’s existing workflow, and allowing editorial teams to work in the context of what the site and pages actually look like. And it has made a flexible, granular reusability of individual elements across projects and even across the community much more directly available.
Agency partner Big Bite has built an entirely new site platform for Nobel Peace Prize Winner Amnesty International, with the new WordPress editor as its foundation, via the Gutenberg plugin. They focused on developing custom blocks and a core theme that serve as the heart of Amnesty’s digital efforts moving forward. More than a new site, this is a framework for applying consistent brand identity, design, and user experience standards to many new sites and for allowing creators to spin up new, powerful sites quickly and with ease. And as a part of Big Bite’s and Amnesty’s shared commitment to give back to the community, large parts of the project will be released as open source components for anyone to use.
In the short video above, you’ll see a quick overview of what it’s like to build new sites quickly and publish and manage content in Amnesty’s new platform launching in September.
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.