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Publishing from ExpressionEngine to Apple News

About a year ago with the release of iOS 9, Apple introduced the Apple News app, which comes installed (and uninstallable) on iPhones and iPads in the United States, the U.K. and Australia. Apple touts the app as being a “captivating experience” that displays personalized news content from sources and topics you select.

“Captivating” may be accurate but not in the way they intend, although the articles are certainly attractive and easy to navigate. You see, with Apple News, your articles appear not just in the app itself, but are suggested by Siri occasionally depending on your conversation with her, and they also show up when you search on your phone’s main search tool. So you really do have a chance to reach a captive audience, without them even having to subscribe.

When they stories are displayed in Apple News, they look like the source web sites they come from, although they are by no means identical. Compare these screenshots of the same story served on the Guardian.co.uk web site and from within Apple News:

The publishers among you may wonder what the benefit is to providing your content for free to Apple, stripped not only of web site features like your site navigation, but also of your advertising. Apple has thought of that and offers publishers the ability to sell ads within the app using iAd, or to utilize Apple-sold ads (Apple keeps 30% of revenue). You as the publisher retain control over layouts and typography, within some limits. And, according to Apple, your content is likely to be seen by more people than you might otherwise reach, and since it is being collated on the basis of people’s personal preference and active searches, it is more likely to be read by those who come across it.

What it takes to get started: You can either create content using Apple’s News Publisher, a web-based editing tool, or if your site uses a content management system like ExpressionEngine, you can deliver content to Apple automatically via the Apple News API—we’d create a method where, when you publish a regular article, you simultaneously and automatically published to Apple News. There are CMS plug-ins for Drupal, WordPress, Squarespace, and Craft.

Interested? Drop us a line and we’ll give you a quick quote on what it would take to get you set up.


12 Days of Add-on Updates

Tea time for duckiesOh long-suffering, ever-patient friend of Hop Studios, your long dark tea-time of the soul is over.

Those critical ExpressionEngine add-ons you need to make your site as spiffy as you want it to be? They’ve been upgraded!

Starting on Monday and continuing for 12 days, we’re releasing 10 updates, one per day. On the last two days, we’ve got two surprises for you: two brand new add-ons! Here’s a little hint: We’ve been holdin’ off tellin’ ye about th’ brand new incarnations fer good rrreason!

Follow us on Twitter to get notified the moment each new add-on is released, and break out finger sandwiches of celebration! Or the scones. Scones are good, too.

(There are, of course, a few add-ons that don’t make any sense to upgrade. Contact us if your favorite didn’t make the cut, but you simply must have it. We’ll work something out.)


ExpressionEngine 3

ExpressionEngine 3 ReleaseWe’ve been holding off telling you about the brand new incarnation of ExpressionEngine until it had a decent support from third-party developers, and had gone through enough versions for the bugs to be mostly squashed.  Well, ExpressionEngine 3.2 was released this week and we think it’s time for you to take a look at the future of EE.

The star of EE3 is the re-tuned control panel. It now works just as well across all manner of devices, including your smartphone. Built to be more internally consistent as well, the EE3 control panel is better organized, simpler on the surface but more complex underneath, and will have you spending less time figuring how to do something instead of just doing it.

Many of you have had spam issues over the years. EE3 has broader, built-in spam handling with settings for sensitivity, and the spam module will learn over time to better be able to judge the spam contents of your site.

Getting the most horsepower out of your site is critical.  The latest version of EE can run using PHP7, which has significant performance improvements over earlier versions of PHP.

Ellislab also improved the general update process for EE3. The EE core files have been isolated from site-specific files. This doesn’t help so much going from EE2 to EE3, which is still somewhat of an undertaking, but it means that it’ll be much easier going forward to ensure that your site is always up to date.

Since EE3 still has that new car smell, not every third-party addon is compatible yet, so if you want to switch up to EE3, drop us a line and we’ll do an assessment to see if you are able to upgrade. And if you want to get a free demo of the new control panel, we’re happy to give you a tour of that as well.


Job Opening - Web Designer

The position is now filled.

Hop Studios has an immediate opening for a full-time Web designer. You’ll be working on interesting and meaningful projects for a wide range of clients, though we focus on media, non-profits, educational institutions, author and book sites, and small businesses.  We are Canada’s leading ExpressionEngine design and development firm.

The most interesting applicant will have many of the following skills at the “Very Fine”, “Near Mint” or “Mint” level:

  • Strong design experience, at least half of which is in web and interactive design. (Adobe Photoshop is open on your computer right now, right?)
  • Photoshop’s not running because you’re currently using Sketch, Illustrator, Omnigraffle…
  • Success eliciting design guidance from clients who have little to no design background
  • Wireframing, information architecture and content organization skills
  • User interface experience on multiple platforms (desktop, mobile, email)
  • Experience with Bootstrap, Foundation, or other Web design frameworks
  • Experience with CSS, SASS, SCSS, etc.
  • Experience with JQuery and Javascript in general
  • Experience with branding, identity and logo development
  • Skills in adapting print design assets and collateral for Web use
  • Prototyping, collaboration and project management tools such as Basecamp or Invision
  • Experience designing email newsletters
  • Familiarity with the ExpressionEngine and/or other database-driven backend content management systems

Don’t have absolutely everything on that list? That’s OK. We provide on-the-job training to fill out the list if you’ve got a strong majority.

What are the other requirements?

  • A rich design portfolio that showcases some of your best work
  • Self-starter with a creative streak
  • Ability to both take design direction accurately, and to come up with novel solutions that improve on what was asked for
  • Collection of T-shirts with artsy line drawings or pop-culture references
  • Good at hitting deadlines with aplomb
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • A long-term interest in keeping on top of technology trends and tools

Who can apply?

  • you must want a permanent position (i.e. not part-time or contract)
  • you must be able to start immediately (i.e. you can give 2 weeks notice now)
  • you should live, or be willing to live, in Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • you should be able to work in Canada

Who are we?

  • We’re a 12-year-old company with a stable staff, established history and plenty of growth potential.
  • We’re fun to work with (if we’re allowed to say that about ourselves [we are -ed.]), and our deep client roster are all excellent to work with as well; there are no waterfall death marches here.
  • We are located in the Gastown district of Vancouver, and we offer an open, collaborative work environment.
  • We pay a competitive wage tied to experience.
  • We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status. Or anything else.
  • We work hard, but also have lives outside of work.

To apply, send a cover letter, your resume, and links to Web sites you’ve built. Send them to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

And don’t send your resume as a Word document. We mean it.



The 20 Largest ExpressionEngine Sites

Since May 2009, we’ve been keeping track of the largest ExpressionEngine sites on the Web. This year’s update proves once more that yes, ExpressionEngine can handle extremely large traffic, if you know how to set it up properly and if your hosting provider is reliable and robust.

So why the list? Well, we have been building large ExpressionEngine-powered sites for a decade, and we’d often see lists of the large organizations that used EE: Apple, BBC, Disney, Garmin, Nike, Sony, etc..  Nevertheless, until we first put this together ourelves, it was hard to find good examples of the EE sites that actually handled huge traffic, and not just the ones that used EE within their infrastructure somewhere but for smaller sites.

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 2016

  1. Barack Obama: You’ve heard of him, yes? This is his campaign site*
  2. Garmin: many of their mapping sites
  3. Donald Trump: u.s. presidential candidate
  4. Periodicos Zocalo: newspaper in Mexico
  5. Trend Hunter: trends and gossip

  6. iLounge: everything about the iPod and iPhone
  7. Totally NSFW: adult content (porn)
  8. Life Site News: Religious ministry
  9. Penny Arcade: comic strip
  10. Pizza Hut: Get a pizza RIGHT NOW

  11. CBC.ca: Many of their show’s sites
  12. Vertical Response: Email marketing tool
  13. Playbill: Theater business news
  14. Fodor’s: the travel guides
  15. Gear Live: gadget news

  16. My Newsletter Builder: Really? Two email marketing tools? Yep.
  17. VKMag.com: online magazine
  18. A List Apart: resource for CSS and design
  19. Getty Images: The story behind the photos
  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.)

Notes for 2016

1. donaldjtrump.com was on ExpressionEngine from May 2015 to Sep 2015, according to BuiltWith.com. I have been unable to verify traffic levels at that time, or to determine what it’s running on now, but it deserves to be in the list.

2. 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.

3. I didn’t find as many new sites this year.  Give me your tips!

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

5. The site I most wish had made the list? Butterball.com, the Thanksgiving turkey recipe site that I know must get huge traffic a few times a year…

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, to my knowledge, these companies’ usage of EE is for sites (or sub-sites) that do not deal with the large volume 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