Behind the Site: WPCandy.com, unofficial WordPress news blog

30 Comments

Today I’m happy to usher in a new post series on WPCandy called Behind the Site. It’s not much of a series right now since we’re at post number one, but we’ll get there.

Behind the Site is a series for sharing more about the inner workings of a WordPress site, almost the way you would an interview with a person. We want to get to know the site, find out what makes it tick, and see how we might emulate what it does. If our WordPress Workspaces series offers a bit of insight into the workspaces WordPress professionals work in, Behind the Site should offer some insight into what those professionals have built.

As I did to open up the WordPress Workspaces series, I’ll be offering up a site of my own for Behind the Site’s first round: this one. We’ll look at what makes up WPCandy, what drives it, and hopefully touch on what makes it a unique site.

About WPCandy

WPCandy is likely not a brand new site to many of you—at least I hope not! For the handful of you that it might be, though, we’ll run through it quick.

WPCandy is an entirely unofficial WordPress news and community site. We post quite a bit. We host discussions with some of the smartest people in the WordPress community. We podcast and broadcast and stream. We maintain a directory of WordPress professionals. We interview some of those same professionals.

WPCandy does many things, with more to come. We’re also entirely funded by our community to do more awesome things, so don’t forget about that.

Plugins on WPCandy

I’ll be the first to say we have a fair bunch of plugins running on WPCandy, though many of them are very small plugins. For that reason I’m going to split them up into a few lists, to show their various purposes.

First we have the plugins that either tweak or slightly augment the WordPress Dashboard. These are the plugins I’m most likely to have active on nearly all of my WordPress sites, actually:

Next are the plugins that are intimately tied to site content in one form or another. If these plugins went away it would pretty drastically change what you see in posts on WPCandy.

I should also mention our Pros section, of course, and how that is built. It really deserves its own post or two to detail its creation (that will come soon), but these are the plugins that are required for the Pros section of the site:

Finally we have a handful of what I consider community-focused plugins. These are active to improve the WPCandy user experience and to make it a better place to be.

There’s also a short list that I would label “performance”:

  • VaultPress – VaultPress backs up WPCandy, and I’ve been pretty happy with it.
  • W3 Total Cache – There are a few caching plugins ou there, but I’ve landed on W3 Total Cache for now.

I should also mention that there’s the WPCandy Functionality plugin, which holds a number of functions necessary to the WPCandy theme. To better understand what is in our functionality plugin, see my earlier post on the topic.

So that’s what we have running on WPCandy.

The WPCandy theme

There was a period of time where I became pretty invested in the parent/child approach to theme development. Heck, I presented on the topic once.

But since that time I’ve come to differentiate, for myself, between developing child themes for primary themes, and developing them for subsidiary themes. The difference is  worth getting into in more detail, but in short: my site’s primary theme should be a standalone theme, from which children could be created.

That distinction has affected my decisions regarding theme frameworks since then. There are plenty of solid theme frameworks out there; nearly too many to even count and label. I ended up choosing Ptah Dunbar’s WP Framework for this site because his theme philosophies seemed to line up with my own.

The theme itself exists for the display and styling of content, as it should, so there’s not too much else to say about this site’s theme. It can be changed in the future without any concern for loss of functionality due to my judicious use of plugins.

Traffic on WPCandy

WPCandy can still be considered a small to medium site; only a few months ago the site crossed 100,000 uniques in a month for the first time. I try to stay pretty open regarding site traffic via our In Review posts, but it’s easy to fall behind on them too.

About nine months ago, in late 2010, I moved the site to a virtual private server (it first launched on shared) and have been pretty happy with that so far.

Be featured on “Behind the Site”

Your site doesn’t have to be big (ours isn’t enormous) to deserve a feature in our Behind the Site series. 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 WPCandy.com to be an interesting one?

30 thoughts on “Behind the Site: WPCandy.com, unofficial WordPress news blog

  1. Ryan this is a great idea and I love how you kicked things off by featuring WPCandy. It’s interesting after you run a site for a longer period of time how you start realizing how many plugins you’re using. I also, thought it was pretty neat how you’re utilizing Gravity Forms and Add-Ons so extensively to power the Pro’s section. Good work man!

    Anyway, love this idea and I’m excited to see how others are using WordPress.

  2. Love getting the ‘behind the scenes’ on anything- I was always under the impression WPCandy had an army of individuals sitting in an office churning out article after article… hah!

  3. What a great resource! I’ve often wondered how the experts were handling their own sites. I’m looking forward to more posts like this… and will definitely be checking out quite a few of the plugins on the list.

  4. Thanks for sharing Ryan! There’s a bunch of cool plugins there, some of them I wasn’t aware of, I’ll have to give them a try.

  5. This is such a cool idea! A great way to learn “best practices” from site that are doing it right.

    When you start featuring other websites, it might be good to break the “About section” into two parts: “About the founder” to learn about the founder, then “About the site” to introduce the website.

    It’s great having a list of plugins for reference. I’d prefer the focus to be on the website though. A good Q&A session where the founder of the site talks about mistakes he’s learned from, monetization, marketing & promotion, plans for the future, etc. It would be nice to know what web hosting company they use too. The plugins can come in at the end.

    Keep up the great work, Ryan!

  6. Love this idea. It’ll be great to see “behind the curtain” on some of the sites we all visit.

    I agree with Marcus, that I’d also like to at least have a little more information about the site’s author(s) and quick tips or lessons learned.

    Looking forward to following this series!

  7. Great idea for a series. I love seeing how other people set things up and what plugins their using. It’s a great way to discover functionality that I hadn’t thought of or didn’t know was available. Keep it up!

  8. Great series idea. Love the peak into your sites structure. Do you find it to be a pain to keep up (updates, etc) with that number of plugins?

    Also I’ve posted this in the forums, it is a very small site and I assume a decently unique usage of WP for the average reader here, but if you ever need anything to put in this series I’d be happy to chat.

    http://thealchemediaproject.com

    • I don’t think the number of plugins has ever caused a real problem, no. I regularly go through a plugin/functionality “pruning” process, just to make sure I’m not using a bunch of stuff I don’t need (a process I should write about soon).

  9. I love this idea! I’m always up for learning what others are doing and using in terms on plugins and how they are using them. So keep it up, I learned a few things here that I’m going to look at implementing into my site.

    Thanks!

  10. Great post series. I love anytime someone lets us under the hood and shows off how things work. I’d love to display my MarketingPress site some time in the future.

  11. This is such a great idea. Can’t wait to see what sites you go behind next. This goes well with the daily plugins but I like it even more cause we can checkout the front end to see how each plugin works through the site. Totally stoked on this. I may have missed it but will you be offering up new posts each week?

  12. Ryan, thanks for the details. I refer it often for plugin suggestions.

    What VPS do you use? Can you share your experiences with shared / VPS hosting companies? With so many promos and contradicting experiences, it is still hard to find that magic hosting company.

  13. Ryan,

    Thank you for sharing this information. I find the ‘Behind the Site’ series to be a great read and very helpful! One question I have (and I might have missed this one) is what do you use to add images next to each of the forum names in your Forums?

    • That’s actually just a CSS tweak that I added myself. bbPress adds a unique ID to each table row of the forums list, so adding a unique icon to the background of each one is pretty straightforward, assuming you’re comfortable writing CSS for your site.

      • Thanks, Ryan. Figured I didn’t look at the code close enough! Seems pretty straightforward.

        Thanks for the reply.

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