In September we had some temporary issues with our host, and I realized the time had come to build a new platform. I have talked about our tech stack a lot already, so I won't get into that too much. Basically, after almost 3 years of this, I have a strong hold on what I need to make CHILLFILTR.com the best it can be. Craft CMS is an amazing product, and makes me feel a bit like I did 15 years ago when I discovered Ruby on Rails - excited about how I can use this powerful framework to make my life easier. And Craft CMS turns out to be a really good match for TailwindCSS. So, for the first time, I can say that this entire site was built by me. No 'skins' were used in the development of this web app.
What It Means for Our Users
For most of our users, the change is only a cosmetic one. Almost all of the pages on this site were moved to the new platform, so everything should just look better. Some posts were removed for different reasons - a handful of song features were removed because I could not find a working link to listen to the song. This is why I always ask for an mp3 from our featured artists - I plan on keeping this site online for a long, long time, and if I have access to hard copies of the mp3, then I can make sure the posts remain active and useful. We have consolidated our sharing preferences for featured tracks - we now ONLY support Bandcamp links, mp3s, and YouTube. If you want us to write a blog feature about your song, you will need to provide a link in one of those formats. As always, mp3s are preferred - we will never monetize your track in any way.
One thing I really like about this new platform - one of many things - is the way that photos are handled. We had some issues with our 2.0 version where certain photos were not presented very well. Handling images in a responsive way is a whole other conversation, but the difference now is that I am able to pinpoint where the 'focus' should be on the image. So images that were cut off before now look great. This is one of the majors wins that we get from moving to the new platform. We are also serving webp images, which in turns helps us rank higher in Google search (the algorithm really likes optimized images). Over time I expect our Alexa rank to climb significantly.
What It Means for Me
Unless you are a developer, the difference between 'closed' CMS platforms like Squarespace and Ghost versus an open one like Craft CMS might not be very meaningful - the short of it is that now, for the first time, everything is under my control. The only limits are my own imagination and the constraints of cloud app 'best practices.' I have a lot of plans for continued development - from adding a store, to offering paid Artist pages, and site membership - so more new features will be rolled out over the next few months and years. For the moment, I will list below everything that is part of this update.
When I put up the Ghost site last year, I tried to keep my list of tags manageable - that turned out to be a short-sighted decision. As I migrated the old content to the new site, I fleshed out the tags for each post. Where available, I included 3 levels of location data - city, region, and country. At the bottom of each blog post, you will see a small set of tags that includes genre information, and location tags. All of them are clickable, which will bring you to the full list of posts for each tag. That means, for example, that if you are looking at Lola Lennox, you will see that she is based in London, UK. You can click on the 'London' tag to see all the CHILLFILTR artists that are based in London, and you can click on UK to see a list of UK artists.
Better Related Posts
With the added tag data, we can do a better job of suggesting related posts. At the bottom of each blog post, you will see a section titled 'related posts.' This is a combination of two queries - first, the system will attempt to match 6 other entries by genre AND location. I think that's pretty cool. So, in the Lola Lennox example, you will see a list of other UK artists that are also tagged as 'Indie Pop.' If we don't find enough matches, we fill out the rest with artists from other locations in the same genre.
In the beginning, we got a lot of Soundcloud submissions. I've done 2 data migrations now, and every time I end up with a bunch of dead Soundcloud links. I know many of you really love that platform, but policing dead links is not a fun job for me. In my experience, Bandcamp links tend to be a bit more durable, and I love that visitors can click through and buy the track if they like it. Bandcamp has done a lot to support artists through this difficult time. So that's why we built an integration for it. Vikki Gilmore is a good example of this.
The Little Things
I'm probably missing a lot of stuff - I've made a huge number of little tweaks to make the site better. One little thing that I think is cool is I've added left and right arrow support to the big index pages - so if you are on the home page, or any of the category/tag pages, you can use your left (←) and right arrows (→) to turn the page. Similarly, when you are viewing a blog post, you can press ← and → to look at the 'next' page, ordered chronologically.
The new platform will allow me to continue to streamline my workflow, add more automation, and in general improve the experience over time for me as a writer, and for our artists and their fans. My workload just got to a point where it was completely unsustainable - now I can get back to writing with a lot more confidence in the underlying tech. Our SubmitHub portal will open again in January, while the Song Contest and CHILLFILTR Review submissions will open up again later this week.
Thank you all for your patience, and here's to a better year than the last.