Updates to Blend Guides styles, sidebar & using Mail Chimp for newsletter subscriptions.

Posted on Jun 04, 2017

Coming back to one of my side projects that I've left by the wayside these past ..... 8 months. I logged in to update the CMS and noticed I havent written any new posts in a while, so I took one from my backlog of blog posts to write. It's amazing how quick web design/development changes and how something you are proud of quickly turns to an embarrassment. When I started writing "Where Are Vitamix Machines Made?" I realized that I needed to update the CMS layout - specifically how I laid out the fields. 

Some background

I started Blend Guide as a way to learn how to use Craft CMS and then turning it in to an affiliate marketing website, I began writing some articles to have some real content to work with. Turning it into an affiliate marketing website was probably the best thing I could done because now I have some "skin in the game" so to speak. Other side projects come and go but with BG I have invested some time in learning about Vitamix blenders (I know..) and writing articles that actually get some traffic. Users send me messages and questions. Realizing that Blend Guide's design and implementation are thrown together haphazardly for the sake of learning sucks when users are actually finding this site and using it's information. 

The wishlist of updates

For me

  • Admin: The admin is stuck in 2015. There are newer, better things that could be done. Specifically, fixing sloppy field layouts and better use of globals. 
  • The blog posts are where I get the most questions and to me, theyre the hardest to write because of the CMS having too many fields to choose from. I used to be use to writing that way but now it's overbearing. Example: I used to have fields for every level of heading, but with one rich text field you can use the redactor to pick any heading with only one field and can easily change the level if needed.
  • Updating the templates to use similar layouts with includes and not just making a new sections in their own templates.

For the users

  • Design: The site started out as a 2-3 page site with a few styles and as the site grew, I just... scrolled to the bottom of the style sheet and added more styles. Styles specific to the content and not written in any kind of modular way. This led to inconsistencies and adding new elements was a nightmare. I need to go through and fix the mess before it gets any worse.
  • Layout: Like stated above, the site was only a few pages and branched out pretty quick and I was more focused on getting everything up and working with some content at first. I want to go back and update the pages to have an easier to read and interpret design. When I was first making it, I had no idea which articles would resonate the best with the readers. I had a guess and did some research based on previous trends and keywords, but writing the content an using different entry types in Craft have splintered away from each other. Some entry types can be made into one with a few adjustments.
  • Social Media: I'm not really sure how to better use social media on the site. Not really a nerdy web problem, but it's on my radar as a problem to fix eventually. Keeping an eye out for some good solutions.
  • Email list: Having an email list to send users deals, news and answer questions would be a nice-to-have but I currently dont have a way to capture that info on the site right now. Looking into mail chimp?
  • Blog Posts: 90% of the traffic I receive comes from the blog section. I set up a chat function on the site to talk to people and most of them leave good questions - it's a great way to capture what the users are coming to the site for in real-time. Those questions make great blog entries because often other users have similar questions.