Behind the Site: The Olive Oil Times (yup, seriously)

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Behind the Site is a new series where site owners give us a peek behind the scenes of their website.

This week’s entry in the Behind the Site series is Olive Oil Times. In this post the site owner Curtis Cord will tell you about the site, what plugins they are using, and what they’ve customized to make it work the way it does.

Take it away, Curtis!

About Olive Oil Times

What started out as a personal blog reviewing different extra virgin olive oils morphed into the “publication of record” for olive oil consumers and industry pros.

Articles are written by contributing writers in every olive oil producing region and edited by us here in New York. The site is supported by advertisers.

Recently we launched a guide to the world’s olive oils, and a recipes section is next.

Click the image for a larger view.

Theme

We’re sporting a highly modified WooThemes theme with an extensive array of custom templates, post types and custom widgets.

Speed

We want Olive Oil Times to have a lot of things going on. An extensive array of plugins help keep things fresh and moving. With all these plugins firing away, we’re big on keeping the site speedy – not  easy with all that back-and-forth. So we rely on a fully dedicated server at Hosting.com, W3 Total Cache and APC opcode PHP accelerator.

It’s a little tricky getting everything to work together, but by now we’ve learned a few tricks. We have an average page load time of around 400ms — as measured by Pingdom and Watchmouse data points around the world. Without W3TC it shoots up to 1,500ms.

Plugins

Our current plugin count is 60. Impressive, I know. But, believe me, every one is there because we like what it does. We regularly comb through to make sure we are still happy with what we’re using.

  • Akismet – ‘Nuff said.
  • Ambrosite Next/Previous Post Link Plus – For the custom Next/Prev in our guide pages.
  • Amikelive Google Adsense Widget – Adsense banners in our sidebars.
  • Audio Player – For the occasional interview with olive oil bigwigs.
  • Better Delete Revision – Clear out all of those post revisions you’ll never need.
  • Custom Login Logo Lite – Even though no one sees it except a few of us here.
  • My Category Order, My Page Order, Custom Taxonomy Sort – Because alphabetical is not always alphabestical.
  • Display Widgets – Very handy for sidebar management and keeping the posts and pages different.
  • Disqus Comment System – Very pleased with Disqus. Looked great right out of the box.
  • External Links to New Window – You didn’t really mean to leave, did you?
  • Fluency Admin – Probably our most loved plugin. With so many plugins and activity in our dashboard, Fluency makes it, well, fluid. Expands menus on the hover and even makes the whole interface nicer to look at.
  • Gravity Forms + Custom Post Types – Olive oil producers submit listings using a gravity form that saves as a custom post draft.
  • GUAR Google XML Sitemaps – Gets our custom post types into our sitemaps and to a SERP near you.
  • HelloBar for WordPress – A pricey little number from the guys at Digital Telepathy, but when we want to get the word out about something it’s in your face and looks pretty sweet.
  • Insert Callout – Easy way to insert callouts (enlarged/highlighted text within an article) using a shortcode. Problem is what happens to those callouts if we ever disable the plugin. Not good.
  • Limit Login Attemps – 2 tries. Go ahead, guess.
  • Link Library – Related products and services are invited to get listed in our “Resources” page – but they need to link to Olive Oil Times first.
  • Meteor Slides – Meteor Slides’ Josh Leuze himself set us up with his nice slideshow when other slides we tried didn’t cut it.
  • Post Type Switcher – In the rare case we need to change the post type, this works nicely.
  • WPTouch Pro – We’ve tried every mobile theme out there. None is perfect, but WPTouch is the best. Our site looks great on an iPad without switching themes, and thankfully WPTouch leaves it “unTouched” for ‘Pads.
  • Related Posts Thumbnails – We’ve tried a bunch of different related posts solutions. Going with this one in the sidebar for now. Uses the 90×90 thumbs auto-generated by WPTouch which, by the way, WPTouch doesn’t use itself.
  • Search Light – Cool Ajax drop-down instant search for the home page. This one is at the top of the “fluff” plugin category. Not exactly essential.
  • Secure WordPress – Little more piece of mind.
  • SEO Friendly Images – Adds metas where we would have never taken the time to.
  • SEO Ultimate – Very happy with this SEO solution. The plugin gets updated very frequently, which can be a hassle. But it’s solid and works well. Best part is you can disable the modules you don’t want to use and not look at them again.
  • Simple Facebook Connect – Posts new articles to our Facebook fan page.
  • Shutter Reloaded – Lightweight lightbox effect for images.
  • Simple Admin Menu Editor – Hides dashboard menu items we don’t use often. This with Fluency and you’re all set.
  • Smart 404 – Tries to guess the best place to send you instead of to the 404 page.
  • Socialize – Our newest addition. Nice call to action at the end of each post. We’ve tried them all.
  • Subscribe / Connect / Follow Widget – Another little something in the sidebar.
  • Tentblogger Optimize WordPress Database – Every once in a while.
  • VaultPress – Works in the background backing us up ’round the clock. No complaints.
  • W3 Total Cache – Frederick Townes’ high-performance plugin powers Olive Oil Times with database, page, object and browser caching, Amazon Cloudfront CDN, and minification. There was a learning curve to get it all right but now that we did, the site hums.
  • WordTwit Pro – Version 1.0 sent out about 100 empty tweets which cross-posted to Facebook. It took us an hour to delete them one-by-one. Then we deleted the plugin. When we noticed the latest update we decided to give it another try (after all, we paid for it). Now we’re glad we did. Lets you tweet from multiple accounts and we can use our own custom short URLs. No other Twitter plugin has the features this one does.
  • WP-PageNavi – Much nicer archive page navigation than the standard “Newer Posts / Older Posts”
  • WP-Postviews with AJAX the Views – This combo lets us show the number of post views in our Olive Oil Guide even though they’re cached with W3TC.
  • upPrev – If it’s good enough for the New York Times, it’s good enough for me. Grzegorz Krzyminski made this cool flyout that, just as you near the end of an article, tempts you with the next one in the category. Disappears if you scroll back up. We don’t use breadcrumbs, instead we like to offer readers related articles in a few places on the page.

That’s it for plugins. Do you use any of these? Anything you picked up and will use in the future?

iPhone App

Our Olive Oil Times app is kind of like WPCandy’s which I like for its ease of use and nice interface. I open the WPCandy app every few days to check out the latest stories.

What’s Next for Olive Oil Times

We have pretty much the whole olive oil industry tuned in, so what we’re after now is more consumer readership, hence the guide and recipes sections. Look for more user-generated content, user ratings and discussion tools. We’re working on discoveroliveoil.com – a sister site focusing on basic olive oil information and usage. Another associated project, oliveoil.tv will be a WordPress site with multi-media features like video news and features, podcasts and user-submitted content from the olive oil world. Didn’t know there even was an olive oil world, did ya?

Be featured on “Behind the Site”

Thanks for the insight Curtis!

If you have a WordPress site with an interesting story, using a clever mix of plugins and a theme to pull off its beauty, let us know and it just might be the next site we take a peak behind.

In the meantime, what do you think? Did you find this look behind Olive Oil Times to be an interesting one?

4 thoughts on “Behind the Site: The Olive Oil Times (yup, seriously)

  1. Wow… and now I am hungry. A little popcorn, popped in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt maybe? 😉

    • I agree Susan. It’s a surprising topic for a site, but then again I suppose a site about WordPress is too :). I think it’s a great example of a nicely executed, clean magazine style site.

  2. I absolutely love this series. Its so cool to see actual examples of all these plugins that make a site tick. Please keep them coming! This series alone has me checking WP-Candy daily for new articles! Well done.

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