Sniff Petrol Case Study

Sniff Petrol is an anarchic motor industry and motorsport satire site

Overview

  1. Over 120,000 posts viewed per week
  2. Well controlled costs
  3. High availability
  4. Large peaks in traffic handled well when a new ‘edition’ is released
  5. Highly responsive site

Analysis

Sniff Petrol is a well known and highly regarded satirical site with its focus on motorsport and the car industry. After six years, however, updating the site had increasingly become something of a chore for the site owner.

At this point friends had recommended producing a blog style site. Unfortunately, creating an attractive and interesting blog theme that moved the design of the site forwards rather than backwards had proved problematic for Sniff Petrol. This is where Interconnect IT were able to become involved, solving a whole raft of problems.

The problems solved can easily be listed:

  1. Difficulty in making updates
  2. Lack of creative freedom
  3. Having to maintain a separate archive page by hand
  4. A need for a more modern design that connects with the old site
  5. RSS Feeds to allow visitors to keep up with changes to the site
  6. Analytics to allow monitoring of traffic and to see which features are most popular

We also wanted to make sure that the site could be accessible to the widest range of users possible, using many different platforms.

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With these criteria in mind, we created a standard blog layout with floating panels for the content, lying on an orange ‘page’, and with navigation elements shown on the page through cut-out panels. This gives the site a contemporary, layered feel.

Elements on the site are now managed dynamically – so for example, if the owner wishes to create a new category for articles, it won’t appear in the navigation panel until it’s populated with content. Then, if a visitor selects this category, it is highlighted, helping the visitor to know where in the site they’ve found themselves.

The underlying publishing platform is WordPress, a popular blogging and web publishing tool that’s put many millions of websites online. By plugging into its APIs we are able to add extra functionality without causing legacy problems in the future.

WordPress allows a range of blogging functions which help the professional blogger – for example, the ability to post date features means that content can be published automatically once the date has arrived. Useful for embargoed press releases, for example.  This helps Sniff Petrol to batch output up ready for editions, which is the working method preferred for the site.

Other useful facilities include the ability to assign posts to different ‘users’ – on Sniff Petrol a users like Crazy Dave Coulthard, D.I. Blundell and Carcoat Damphands have been defined, and posts can then be written with them as the author.

Traffic Improvement

In order to deal with the greater technical requirements of the new site, as well as ensuring higher availability and regular backups, it was decided to move everything on to Interconnect IT’s servers. The initial load was high, with over 6,000 visitors per day within just a few days. People around the world quickly learned that there was a new version of the site and traffic climbed exponentially at first. A sudden increase in traffic can sometimes be disastrous to a blog, but our well specified server barely noticed the change.

Overall, with like-on-like comparisons, the site has seen an increase in visits by over 100% – measured in the short term. It’s likely that due to the more regularly updated content that, in the long term, the site’s traffic will grow considerably.

Months Later…

Site traffic continued to climb, and is now steadily at 600% over the original visitor levels. This meant some tweaking to maintain server performance and keep bandwidth bills reasonable. This huge increase in visitors has happened because not only is the site updated more regularly than before, it’s also easier to keep track off – there are 3,000 visits a day from RSS readers alone.

In 2009…

The site is continuing to perform and grow. Sniff Petrol’s use of Twitter, coupled with a Twitter widget in the sidebar, has helped bring the site to a new audience. Updates ended up going back to a monthly basis, but the ease of use with WordPress means that the site’s owner continues to enjoy posting to it on a regular basis.

In 2010…

The site has had a complete re-design, using our news framework, allowing for a fully widgeted front page. Since changing the site layout traffic has grown by 120%, with page views up 250%. We have also seen that new visitors are far more likely to return, and that they are also more likely to drill down through content to find older but still interesting content. A full case study covering this type of design and its impact on a website will be published in the coming months.

If you’d like a site like this one, why not contact us on 0151 331 5140 (+44 151 331 5140 from outside the UK) or complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.

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