Site update details

It was high time. After 5 years the wrinkles started to emerge and a facelift was inevitable. The former site ran on Wordpress and performed well, with quick page loading times, able to serve many concurrent visitors without grinding to a halt. Load times were in the sub-second range for most pages. It had a system to sell 'the book' and included most relevant information. Crucially, it converted some visitors to translation buyers. It all seemed to be fit for purpose.

System update

But there were a few issues. Given that the site evolved over many years, a lot of cruft had collected in terms of where information could be found and how it was presented. Too many menu options, odd pages for various languages, etc. The final straw to inspire an upgrade was when the Wordpress translation and localisation plugins revealed themselves to be too inflexible for my situation. I just wanted all content on the same domain translatable, including menus and custom theme pages. I also wanted to release 'the book' in an organised publicly readable HTML format. Having spent many years developing with Drupal, which is now a very mature platform, I knew all of that functionality could be had quickly and easily while retaining the page load performance setup from before. The site still runs on Nginx on a server I manage myself.

Drupal lets you translate every 'entity' on the site, be it a menu item, form or custom page, and indexes this all intelligently for search engines to parse. It also has an in-built system to present 'books' in a neatly indexed layout. A module converted an HTML version of the book to the Drupal book system in a few clicks. All Wordpress articles and comments were imported in a few clicks, retaining their URLs for SEO purposes, so that too went smoothly. In short, it offers much more control over each aspect of a site's content. There is a learning curve involved, but it is much simpler than coding all of this functionality from scratch and is worth its weight in gold in terms of time saved. I'd say it took 7 days part-time work to get everything 'just so', but a new site with a view to building content over time would have taken a matter of hours to set up. A day, at most, to get the design and layout right. There are still a few bugs and tweaks I'd like to iron out, but overall it is a fine starting point for a more up-to-date web presence.

Site copy update

On the former site I had worked with a copywriter (who has won awards for his work with agencies, no less) to come up with a concept that made the site more compelling to translation buyers. I think we achieved that, noticing an uptick in sales originating directly from the site, but it came to a point where I wanted to further customise the copy. It was a little too generic despite incorporating many of my values and core services. I've reworked it all to better reflect my offer and particularly my own voice, hoping to connect with visitors on a more personal level. It still needs fleshing out, but trying to keep the wordcount down so as to keep sales conversions up is a tricky balancing act.

Misc. updates

The design was simplified, still based on a theme, but this one more open to customisation. The theme itself is based on the Bootstrap CSS styling, so a lot of the heavy lifting was already done. A few tweaks to fonts (Adobe's open 'Source Sans' being a simple choice), colours and layout of menus and content was all it took to get to this first draft of the new site.

The book, now freely available to read on the site, still needed an ecommerce system to sell the packaged PDF and e-reader versions for those looking for that convenience. Drupal offers its own 'Commerce' system that lets you quickly create products and shopping carts, integrated with your payment processor of choice.

Site visitors are no longer tracked by Google. The analytics system is now Piwik, an open-source and self-hosted analytics engine. This is all part of a general distancing from Google services. I've been trying to reduce my reliance on their (admittedly often brilliant) products for a number of years. A range of self-hosted email, RSS, analytics software has helped in the transition.

Finally, I've moved away from Mailchimp to a self-hosted email newsletter system, running through Amazon web services, removing most of the limits and constraints of using a third party for newsletter management. So all 'Newsletter sign-up' forms have now been amended. Nearly all, at least!

That's the update in a nutshell. Happy to hear any feedback or answer any questions you might have.

Published by using 804 words.

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