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The Tab

We worked with the fastest growing youth news platform in the UK to complete a major site update and improve the experience for readers, contributors and advertisers.

The Tab is a multisite network of online student newspapers and the largest growing youth news platform in the UK. Launched in 2009 at the University of Cambridge, it’s since expanded to over 110 universities in the US & UK. Our friends at Code for the People had completed a big round of changes on The Tab, but when CFTP was acquired we stepped in at short notice to continue development.

With an average monthly readership of 3 million, and over 500 contributors requiring admin access, The Tab has pressure from both the volume of visitors and its high number of users. Managing a large WordPress multisite install added another layer of complexity.

The Tab’s revenue relies heavily on advertisers who want access to their readership. To give The Tab access to a wider advertising market, we increased the range of providers that could be integrated with the site. We needed to ensure content was optimised for both readers and advertisers, so we set up customised (key-value) targeting. These tailor advertisements alongside specific content and hide it from others. In addition, advertising campaigns can now be targeted at a specific audience, so The Tab can target a single university.

As well as the core editorial team, The Tab relies on a large number of contributors who can register and submit stories through the WordPress admin. This sign-up process needs to be as seamless as possible to ensure contributors complete sign-up and publish content to the site.

We streamlined the registration process to a single form using Gravity Forms. This kept the form flexible and enabled The Tab to collect additional information from contributors. To simplify the administration and tracking of contributions, we built a system to automatically sync site author information with Zoho CRM system.

To encourage authors to write on the site, The Tab uses rankings and statistics to gamify the contribution process. This is done using a plugin that pulls and analyses pageview and share data from Google Analytics’ API and SharedCount.com API. Acquiring this data isn’t easy on such a large site so we wrote a custom plugin that wouldn’t impact performance. Now, every author has a public profile page on The Tab site with user profile information and key performance statistics to show the popularity of their articles, encouraging authors to keep producing high-quality content for The Tab’s readers.

An automated email process helps to ensure contributors  write and publish articles after signing up. Emails are triggered by specific actions; if a new user registers but doesn’t submit a post for two weeks, an email is sent to them to remind them. This automation takes the gamification process once step further. Using the data on author and article performance, emails are sent to the top 100 authors each week with information about their ranking and pageview statistics. An email is also triggered to an author when an article goes viral, letting them know their story is becoming increasingly popular.

Performance and speed are key issues for all large and growing sites, and we worked closely with The Tab and their hosting provider to ensure better uptime. We implemented centralised image/file storage using Amazon S3 that allowed us to employ multiple servers and set up a CDN to ensure resources are loaded quickly. Eventually, it was decided that the site should be migrated to an Amazon-based hosting package enabling us to provide better value, round-the-clock support and in-depth performance monitoring.

“Human Made are absolutely world-class. We have worked with a number of other WordPress agencies and none have come close to providing such quality work, great customer service and quick results. I was initially nervous about working with a distributed agency, but every process was managed in a simple and clear way. Matt, Dasha, Joe, Tom and others were all very understanding about our needs (this is rare with other agencies) and they communicated things very clearly – I have no real technical knowledge, but I have learned a lot by working with them.”

— Jack Rivlin – Editor-in-Chief

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