GN's Huge Site Overhaul in 2013 - Usability and
2013 saw the biggest changes the website has ever gone through. The website has been running on a framework I built in 2007 and was sorely limited, and this year's October hardware giveaway was my way of celebrating a complete rebuild of the website, from the ground-up. The website still has several major changes underway, but it is now fully mobile-compatible and responsive (the site will resize with your window or device), which is fantastic for viewing purposes. Our mobile viewership is now at nearly 16% of our monthly visitors, up from just 4% about two years ago; adding compatibility for phones and tablets was of great importance for this reason.
The site is also capable of all kinds of fancy new structural features, like our PC build filter -- which aims to help you find a system for your needs.
And that was a huge part of this year's objective: I looked at all the major hardware websites, then our own, and noticed that we all suffer from the same issue -- navigation. It's a nightmare. Finding old articles on nearly any editorial website is an absolute mess. If I wrote an article about understanding what a chipset is, chances are you'd never see it once it got buried by new content. I've begun to change that, and the first major step was the PC builds section (see: left sidebar). I also made changes to the hardware reviews section, where you can now sort by components a bit easier. Similar changes are underway for the rest of the site.
Speaking of navigation, I added a left menu for DIY PC build guides. This menu is ever-changing and gets updated content as it is written, but will primarily serve as a static accordion guide for new builders. The idea is that it'll help you get a system built from start-to-finish, then assist in troubleshooting and post-build options after that.
Of course, once you've built the machine, we want you to stick around and continue to learn and get excited about hardware. That's where all the features come in (like our tour of nVidia's hardware lab... so cool!).
Truthfully, I'm still not 100% sure on what I want to do with the "Nexus" section of the website (do you have a suggestion?). Currently, is serves as an activity feed that helps me and Mik monitor the forums and comments so that we can reply promptly. It technically has photo gallery support and full social network support, but it was never part of my vision to go the "facebook route," so to speak. I would like to utilize the functionality as almost a gaming PC social network, though -- meaning you'd post your system specs, photos of the build, benchmark data, etc. It'd be a great central hub for learning how to gather data on your machine. Not sure, though.
I should mention that we've completely abolished review scores. They're dead. Gone. Scores are arbitrary for games -- we've known that since we started using them. They're great for "glance-ability" and metacritic, but they just feel so fake to me. This was discussed in great detail here, where contributor Jake Nantz explains that reviews are subjective, and should be treated as such (reading them) rather than an objective number assignment. Numbers felt disingenuous to me, so I ditched them.
In terms of hardware reviews, I've worked closely with manufacturers to refine a full SSD testing methodology and will have it in-place in 2014. It's just a matter of finding time to run all the tests now, though I will seek further insight from Samsung and
Annual Server Hardware Upgrade & Globalization
We upgraded our server infrastructure around Xmas of 2011 and performed further upgrades during Xmas of 2012 (our lowest traffic day, so this is when I secretly make changes). The original server that hosted the site from ~2008 - 2011 was a "shared host," where we shared the same box, CPU, and hardware with untold dozens of other sites. This was awful for reliability as the site grew. We rapidly became the largest website on the server and were "strongly encouraged" to find another host.
That's when I moved us to a VPS, or Virtual Private Server, which virtually allocates us a fixed, predictable amount of resources on a server blade. This was in 2011. That server initially had -- from memory -- 512MB of RAM and a low CPU priority. It was upgraded to 768MB of RAM in 2012, I think, and this was to accommodate our increasingly-high count of simultaneous users.
Then 2013 came around. This year had some of our hardest-hitting articles to-date, with two of them even hitting the front page of reddit (or close to it) at various times. Because of these instances, we had several scary server crashes and downtimes due to load. I decided it was enough screwing around and upgraded us severely.
We're now on a 2GB VPS with higher CPU priority; I put a CDN (Content Delivery Network) in place as well, which is effectively a series of node servers across the planet that our central
To give an idea of the impact, some numbers: Before renting the CDN, our users based in Asia and parts of
The difference is pretty simple: Full page load time (Document Complete) is when the dial stops spinning in your browser -- there is no more data to collect. The DOM content complete time (2-3.5 seconds) is when you can start browsing the site without really realizing you're missing content.
So it's a huge upgrade. I've got some great surprises in store for the next few weeks, too! New T-shirts were ordered in bulk quantity, so you'll be able to buy the same shirts we wear in the field at conventions. I'm also getting decals and other unique PC building products made - keep your eyes open for that.
Our traffic has increased about 10-15% this year and our global traffic is rapidly increasing with the CDN implementation, making our numbers very healthy. We've also had a huge social media boon, with twitter increasing nearly 300% in followers, facebook doubling, and YouTube tripling in subscribers.
As a result of this, I've brought on some new writers -- Nick Pinkerton, who's been with us since he left Antec, Inc., is now writing more frequently and working all major conventions by my side. Jim Vincent joined us for photography work in
Some fun stats: We're now up to 1261 articles (as of this writing), 200 videos, and have more than 200,000 pageviews monthly (when factoring in our YouTube audience, too).
Oh, and shout-out to site user abibiliboop for his tremendous forum support.
Well, the clock's almost turned over to 2014, so I better post this thing...
Thanks again to all of our fantastic readers and supporters. Please read about how you can Support GN if we've helped you significantly in the past. Or don't. I can't tell you how to live your life.
(But seriously, thanks for the support - let us know if we can ever do anything for you; just hit us up on the forums).
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.
Editor-in-Chief & Founder,