Interview with Robert Peterson, owner of CC2K
This week we discuss the history of a long-established Joomla powered website called CC2K. Founded in 2004 and ported to Joomla in 2006, CC2K is a movie and pop-culture website that features reviews and essays.
Since 2007, CC2K has updated at least five times a week with a new article, giving it a total database of more than 2,000 content items. CC2K attracts approximately 500,000 page views per month from about 30,000 to 90,000 unique visitors.
BAJW: Welcome Robert, tell us a bit about the history of CC2K.
Robert: Four college friends of mine and I had been maintaining a Blogger blog back in 2004 where we pretty much just hung out and goofed around. Eventually, one of us suggested that we build a more focused website for our long-form meditations and rants about movies.
I had recently picked up web design, and I built it originally as a static HTML site, if you can believe that. It had category pages and everything, and I updated it all by hand. It was a nightmare.
Here's where things turned: A coworker of mine was a PHP expert, and he offered to build me a simple content manager for about $100. I didn't even know what content managers were at the time. He built it, and we actually used it for a few months before I discovered Joomla. My hosting company, Dreamhost.com, offers Joomla as a one-click install. When I saw that it was a free content manager, I got really excited.
I think the original version of CC2K was in Joomla 1.0.5, and it's funny – as soon as I transferred the site over to a CMS, things took off. All of my friends found Joomla easy to use, and they loved being able to update the site without bothering me.
Meanwhile, I just disappeared into Joomla. When I built the original site, I probably worked for 40 total hours over one weekend. Ridiculous. It was like a rabbit hole. I just kept finding new toys to add. Community Builder alone probably occupied 10 hours of time during that original build.
Here's the site today:
BAJW: Did you consider other CMS options?
Robert: I had heard of a few others, including phpNuke, but Joomla seemed like the best option.
BAJW: Why didn't you use Wordpress? This seems like a good option for your site.
Robert: No kidding, I was barely aware of other CMS options at the time. Of course, I eventually got to know Wordpress – as most freelance web guys like me have to – but I just happened to find Joomla, and I must say that as our site grew, Joomla really emerged as the better option.
To be sure, Wordpress is a fantastic platform, but if you look at CC2K today, we've really embraced a magazine-style presentation. I really wanted to showcase as much of my writers' content as possible, and I found all of that quite a bit easier in Joomla. (Any Wordpress developer can attest to how tricky it is to show or hide modules on a specific page, and if you have a Wordpress.com site, it's virtually impossible.)
I've also developed some brand loyalty to the company Gavick. They built the last two base templates I used for CC2K, Mox Movies and now Icki Sports. Most commercial Gavick templates also come with oodles of handy modules you can use to better present your content.
BAJW: You started with Joomla version 1 but you're now using version 1.5. How did you find the conversion process to 1.5?
Robert: Ha ha! It was a nightmare. I remember I didn't have much to do during the week leading up to New Year's Eve last year, and I spent most of the week upgrading to 1.5.
On the positive side, the Joomla community does provide a very handy plugin you can use to migrate your database from 1.0 to 1.5, but that's where the easy stuff ended. Even though I followed the directions precisely, I still had a lot of character encoding problems – all of my punctuation had been replaced with gibberish code.
Thankfully, each piece of gibberish was a unique character, so I was able to open my database as a plain text file and do a "find and replace" search for all of them. Still, it wasn't any fun to crawl though a 25 megabyte plain text file, looking for gibberish to replace. It was mind-numbing.
Once I took care of that problem, though, then it got fun again. I picked up the Icki Sports template because I wanted to give the site a new look, and I took the opportunity to clean out my database, reorganize all of our content and spruce up the branding.
And here's the best news: The revamp really got my writers excited all over again. Some writers I hadn't heard from in awhile came out of the woodwork, and what's more, our traffic has roughly doubled since the revamp. I can't quite explain it, but we jumped from 250,000 page views per month to more than 500,000. It was worth it.
BAJW: Given that Joomla 1.6 has been around for 6 months now, do you think you'll upgrade your site again or will you wait for a later version?
Robert: I'm going to wait. The basic changes in the code for Joomla 1.6 – from the template and template parameters on down – is so dramatic, that I'd like to wait at least a year before I jump to 1.6.
I also use so many popular plugins, and I'd like to wait until the 1.6 versions of all of my favorite plugins stabilize.
BAJW: is there a particular extension you can't live without?
Robert: Good question! I'm a big fan of Community Builder, even though I don't necessarily use it to build social-networking sites. More than anything else, I love CB because it lets you associate as much information with a user as you need. Adding custom fields to Joomla is usually a pain in the neck unless you know how to use CCKs (content creation kits), but CB is a nice, user-friendly way around that. Come to think of it, CB is kind of a CCK in its own right.
BAJW: What is the biggest thing you've learnt?
Robert: Users like a good experience. Every time I've added a new gizmo to CC2K, I've told my writers about it, and they've loved it. Giving them the power to update a website on their own made CC2K what it is today.