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Update on running blog sites using ProcessWire

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This is an update about how it's been running blog sites using ProcessWire. I hope it's OK for me to post in this category even though I've already showcased my sites awhile back. I thought it would be helpful for people to get a feel for what it's like to use ProcessWire on an ongoing basis for blogging. Often people talk about the development of a site, but it's not quite as often that we hear about the ongoing running of a PW site and how the PW API influences that, which is what I'll cover here.

As background, we at The GrayFly Group own and run the blogs goodkidsclothes.com and flipfall.com. The development of these PW sites has been covered in a showcase thread for GoodKidsClothes and another for FlipFall.

Here are some of the unique experiences I've had running these two sites. "Running" covers everything from coding and making modifications to the templates, to writing our articles, to interacting with ad partners or with others seeking us out for something related to one of those sites. So this is a different experience from agencies who develop for others; we develop for ourselves. As background, the main traffic to the websites comes from organic search results. Income from sites is from affiliate marketing and advertisements.

GoodKidsClothes PW experience: "to think it is to do it."

For GoodKidsClothes.com, one of the things we noticed was that if we could think it, we could do it, thanks to the easy-to-use PW API.

The need for a change

Here is a concrete example of what I mean: we noticed that many people would enter the site on an older article (e.g. via a search result). However, we continually put out a lot of time-sensitive information, e.g. a style guide, a piece of news relating to a change in a children's clothing company, etc. I didn't want people to miss out on this, yet many were, because after reading their entry page, they'd leave. They had no idea (unless they clicked on the link to home page) that there was another article that could be of value to them. All too often, by the time people learned about that new article via search results, they'd be too late for the news to be relevant - in fact, it wouldn't even be the newest article anymore by that point.

The solution

So, using the PW API, we modified the article template so that if someone was reading any article that was not the most recent article, then at the end of what they're reading, they'd see a small section highlighting the most recent article. Here is a screenshot:

GKC-oldarticle2.jpg.6777669a95ac73dc04278faabcb694bf.jpg

As you can see above, our newest article is highlighted immediately below the article they're reading, unless of course they are already reading the newest article. In the case shown above, the newest article (recipe-related) did not happen to be time-sensitive, but in most cases that article would be time-sensitive, so that's why we made this change. To make the change we simply used the PW API to query what the latest article was and store its identity in a variable - those sorts of queries we set up in _init.php. Then we modified the article template such that if the current page was not the latest article, to include the featured box that you see above.

Another need for a change

You'll also notice links in boxes above and below where the featured article box is. These are ads (they blend OK right?!) These ads brought another problem to our attention: we'd put the ads blocks on all articles equally. However, in the case of the most recent article, often the most recent article would usually have a time-sensitive offer or some other call to action e.g. signing up for our newsletter (well, not in the case of the recipe article above, but in most cases the latest article would have something we prefer the reader to do). We didn't then want our readers to get distracted by the ads and either leave the site, or click on an ad and click away from the site, instead of doing whatever the call to action is.

The solution

Again using the ProcessWire API, we modified the "article" template so that there was conditional logic on the ads: if the current page is not the latest article, include the ad code (otherwise no ads). This mean no ads were seen on the most recent article, allowing for less distractions to the reader on time-sensitive articles and more likelihood of them following through on the call to action.

Conclusion for GoodKidsClothes

We were able to make all these changes within minutes of thinking of them! In-house, without a ton of knowledge of programming, thanks to the awesome ProcessWire API. We actually made all those changes live, i.e. going in there and making changes to the code of the site as its running live. Yes, we had backups of the entire site and we always first save a copy of the template file under a different name (usually prefixing it with OLD_ ) before modifying the live version.

This is how helpful ProcessWire is. We can make changes that benefit our site and make them in-house as we think of them. If this was done under some other CMS, we would be unable to make those changes without either a) hiring a developer or b) training up in whatever the other CMS is to make the changes in-house. Either way, it would take considerably more time to do anything. So, despite not having a formal programming background, we now have a very "nimble" site that we can adapt as needed to changes that we desire, within minutes of thinking of the change we need, with only needing to know a little PHP, html, and CSS, just the very basics, and looking up the PW API.

FlipFall PW experience: "the answer is yes."

In the case of FlipFall, there have been times when a potential ad partner asks a question like "can you put different ads on different categories?" or other things. Sometimes they are questions I ask myself of the website "Can we do A/B testing of different ads; i.e. show a certain ad block 50% of the time totally randomly and another ad block the other 50% of the time?" "How about ads from this company some of the time and a different company other times?" The answer is always "yes."

Coming from other CMS's (that I used but did not program with) I used to brace myself a bit if I saw an email that asked "Can you....?" but now thanks to ProcessWire I don't have that bracing reaction any more. So long as I can think of a way to do it (and so far I always have, thanks to the PW API), I can say "Yes we can." More to the point, I can actually say "Yes, we can make those changes in-house within [whatever brief timeframe I think it will be]" instead of having to be vague about timeframes because of needing a developer. So I no longer worry about "Can you ...?" questions because the answer is yes.

Overall conclusions

ProcessWire is a superb CMS for those who own and run a site. The PW API makes it easy to make changes to the look and functionality of the site as needed. Such modifications wouldn't easily be possible on alternative CMS's that are heavily "theme-based".

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