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Starting Up an Instagram Account Boosts Audience Interaction Across the Board

Rose's first post to Instagram Hop Studios has had the privilege and pleasure of working with cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum for a very long time. Working with Rose is a joy (although looking at all those photos of wonderful desserts and breads can be torture in the late afternoon). The very quality that makes Rose such an inspired cook and great Hop Studios client also contributes to her online success—she loves to try new things.

A month ago Rose signed up for Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing tool (available for iOS and Android). Rose had heard that using Instagram could help her to connect with more people online, and was especially interested in simultaneously sharing Instagram photos to her Facebook page and her Twitter feed, where she has reaching her readers for some time. When the first photo she shared on Instagram got its first batch of hearts in under a minute, Rose was hooked!

Over the past few weeks, Rose has posted a buffet of mouthwatering photos—freshly picked cherries, a grilled tomahawk steak I personally would give my right arm to have right now, iced cappuccino... In short, she’s posting cheesecake shots for the food lovers, if you can forgive the pun. And we aren’t the only ones ogling Rose’s photos, either. Already, Rose has earned many favorites, many comments, and more than 170 followers.

Image showing percentage improvementBut Instagram followers aren’t the only ones excited about these new photos from Rose. As she has shared her foodie adventures on Instagram, she has simultaneously been sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. Thrillingly, the result has been a skyrocketing response across all her social media platforms: there was a significant percentage improvement in Facebook social interaction during the week of her first Instagram post. Her Facebook engagement is way up, as are shares and retweets of her posts. Rose is hearing more from her readers and fans, and is excited to have feedback and interaction on these smaller tidbits of her life that likely couldn’t become a full blog post.

In 2015, it’s no secret that social media is a great way to extend your brand and increase its audience, and luckily, it’s sometimes loads of fun, too. Congrats, Rose!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, for some reason I’m craving cake and I’ve got to go find some.


Watch For It: Mountee Update 2.7.5

Users of the ExpressionEngine add-on Mountee—which allows developers to edit templates and snippets as regular files, outside of the EE control panel—will be pleased to know that there will be a new version available in the next week. This update fixes some bugs that were affecting other add-ons, and preventing people from using Coda to edit templates.

Mountee allows you to access your templates as local files, which really speeds up the development process, as well as allowing you to quickly populate templates in new ExpressionEngine installations. You can learn more about Mountee, download the update, and sign up to be notified about future updates on the Hop Studios Mountee page.

As always, suggestions for future additions are welcome!


Dealing with Outdated EE Add-Ons

At Hop Studios, we all love ExpressionEngine’s wonderful community of developers. They come from diverse backgrounds, and have created so many excellent and powerful modules, extensions and add-ons. But sometimes those developers stop supporting their add-ons for one reason or another. The result? You end up frozen at the version of EE that works with your add-on, or you have to give up the add-on and re-develop your site in order to upgrade ExpressionEngine.

Neither of these solutions is healthy for your site. Postponing the upgrade only pushes the problem to some point in the future when you will be forced by a security concern or a necessary improvement to upgrade, this time under time pressure. And everyone gets irritated when you go back to remove code that used to work just fine, either giving up that functionality entirely, or switching to an alternate method that might be less efficient or simply a big investment of time.

We don’t think you should have to choose between two bad options, especially not when there’s another alternative: have us bring that unsupported add-on back to life. Put our years of experience with ExpressionEngine development to work for you. We’ll happily revise your unsupported add-on to be compatible with the upgrade you want to make, no compromise necessary. And we can help you keep that add-on current with future versions of EE as well.

We’ve built a multitude of ExpressionEngine sites, and we’ve created quite a few of those ExpressionEngine add-ons ourselves, so we get it: you should be able to have and eat your cake! [Editor’s note: Yes, I am saying that hiring us means you get to eat cake. Go ahead, we don’t mind a bit.]


Introducing: Hop Super Pulldown

Standard pulldown menus make it easy to re-use common data quickly, and without a mistake. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could also dynamically add an item to an existing dropdown menu? With Hop Super Pulldown, you can!

The Hop Super Pulldown add-on works within the ExpressionEngine entry editing screen. Quickly select one of the existing choices, or create a new one right then and there. Usually with computers you have to trade flexibility for consistency, but not this time. Build your dropdown menu options as you go, and then start using those new options in the next entry you create.

How would you use this functionality? Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Example of Hop Super Pulldown in use

  • Create a Hop Super Pulldown menu that contains photo credits you commonly use, but quickly add new ones as necessary.
  • Create a menu with names of neighborhoods, and let people add new ones.
  • Make a poll where people can vote for the best team name, or write in their own suggestions.
  • What about a menu where you can enter a flavor, but you don’t know at the outset what flavors will be? Use this menu, and let the choices grow over time.

We’ve gone the extra mile to make sure Hop Super Pulldown works with Grid and Matrix. And yes, you can include HTML in your list!

Hop Super Pulldown is available on Devot:ee for $6 and is compatible with ExpressionEngine 2.8 and up. Try it today—you’ll wonder how you did without it!


The 20 Largest ExpressionEngine Sites

People often ask us, “Can ExpressionEngine handle my HUGE TRAFFIC requirements? Because I’m planning to get [one gazzillion hits or something like that] and I heard Drupal or Wordpress is better for big sites.”

The answer is: Yes, EE can handle your traffic, if you know how to set it up properly and if your hosting provider is reliable and robust.  Here at Hop Studios, we have been building large ExpressionEngine-powered sites for years.  Nevertheless, until we first researched this list, it was hard to find concrete examples of enormous sites to back up our assertion that EE could handle large traffic.

So we made this list. And because we like to share, below is the current definitive list of the 20 largest ExpressionEngine Web sites. Why 20? Because 21 seems gratuitous.

But wait… What exactly defines “largest”?

That’s a tough question, because some sites that have a huge amount of visitors might still be just one page in scope. Or a site that serves a niche audience and has a low global Alexa ranking might have crazy active forums. We consulted with many other EE professionals to come up with the following important factors, which seemed to be the consensus about what determines “largeness.”

  • number of unique visitors and pages / month
  • number of entries and comments
  • number of members and forum posts
  • awards and buzz

Combining all these data points from an initial list of more than 150 candidate sites, we came up with the ranking you see here, which was based on all the data we gathered plus a little bit of what we like to call “magic ordering sauce.” You might argue with the specifics of the order, however, we guarantee that you’ll be impressed, and surprised, by this list.

The 20 Largest ExpressionEngine Web sites, as of February 2015

  1. Garmin: many of their mapping sites
  2. Barack Obama: You’ve heard of him, yes? This is his campaign site*
  3. Periodicos Zocalo: newspaper in Mexico
  4. Trend Hunter: trends and gossip
  5. iLounge: everything about the iPod and iPhone

  6. Totally NSFW: adult content (porn)
  7. Penny Arcade: comic strip
  8. Pizza Hut: Get a pizza RIGHT NOW
  9. CBC.ca: Many of their show’s sites
  10. Vertical Response: Email marketing tool

  11. Playbill: Theater business news
  12. Fodor’s: the travel guides
  13. Gear Live: gadget news
  14. My Newsletter Builder: Really? Two email marketing tools? Yep.
  15. VKMag.com: online magazine

  16. A List Apart: resource for CSS and design
  17. Getty Images: The story behind the photos
  18. Alternative Press Magazine: that’s what it is
  19. The Gospel Coalition: Religious ministry
  20. Truthdig: progressive news site

(Items in green are new since last year; other sites may be new to the top 20, but were on the list last year.)

* Change.gov used to be the top site on this list; I’ve retired it because it hasn’t been active since 2009, though it would still easily rank in the top 5.

The largest confirmed traffic we know of is Garmin at 23,000,000 pages per month. The largest number of entries we know of is Periodicos Zocalo: 1,200,000. ZOMG.

If you’re looking for the names of big companies that use EE, the list includes Stanford, U of Miami, MIT, Mailchimp, Cisco, Boobieathon, Sony, Apple, Disney, Nokia, WB, Ford, BBC, Nike, Adobe, Toys R Us, Vodafone, GOP.com and Democrats.org. However, the sites (or sub-sites) of these big companies do not deal with the large amounts of traffic that the ones listed above do, and this isn’t about name dropping, this is about BIG SITES.

Much of the raw data we gathered is available for you to use, so long as you credit us. Take a look:


Click here to view the spreadsheet directly

Also note, the spreadsheet is a living document, so it may in the future show a different ranking than the list in this article does. That’s because we’ve learned more and updated it.  The list is still the list, but the spreadsheet reflects live data.

Special thanks to the folks on Twitter who chipped in with suggestions, and to some folks who couldn’t help us on the record.

Please let us know of any missing sites, either in the comments or by contacting us directly. Thanks!

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Web Design and ExpressionEngine Development Consulting - Vancouver (BC) Canada