Thank You (2016 Edition)
Another year in the bag! As we do every year, I’d like to look back at the year by-the-numbers and see how we did. It’s also an opportunity to say how grateful I am to you all. All things considered, the web design and development community is a pretty great one. Lots of sharing and caring. I consistently enjoy working on this site and being a part of the sub-community that happens here.
There were 77 million pageviews this year, up from 73 last year, making it an all-time record breaking traffic year again. The other numbers that Google Analytics coughs up are Sessions (56 million, up from 51 million) and Users (steady at 21 million). No significant peaks throughout the year. Steady as she goes.
We published 442 posts and 43 pages (i.e. snippets/videos/almanac entries). I like that pace. We’re publishing content that has a pretty good shelf-life and it feels like we get to cover industry news. That’s up from publishing 378 posts in 2015 and 278 in 2014.
We don’t have a great way of figuring out what the most popular posts of this year were. If we put the year in the URL, that kind of filtering would be easy, but we don’t. The top five most trafficked posts of the year (any publishing date) were the flexbox guide, full page background images, media queries reference, the guide to centering, and using SVG. None of which were published this year, but of course that’s a bit slanted since posts published the year didn’t have a full year to get that traffic. The flexbox guide is actually our #1 most visited page, beating out the homepage by a decent margin.
Of people that use the search form we offer directly on the site (ranges from about 700-1800 searches a day), the two most popular search terms are “flexbox” and “svg”.
There is somewhat of a “long tail” effect. It’s not an enormously fat tail, but it’s there. If you take the total traffic to the 100 most visited pages, that only accounts for 33 million of the 78 million pageviews (43.47%).
Our traffic, looked at geographically, is long-tail-esque as well. The United States is still the top country, but down from 24% to 23%. India is up to 12% from 11%. UK down to 6% from 7%. If you look at the top 10 countries combined, it’s only about half of the traffic.
Google is good to us. Organic web search results in 87.75% of our traffic. Google alone is 86.40%, Bing at 0.82%. DuckDuckGo is at 0.5%, beating Yahoo at 0.3%. The top five leading non-search referral traffic sources are StackOverflow, Twitter, Feedly, Facebook and Reddit.
The mobile web trend continues to swerve around CSS-Tricks. Less than 5% of traffic comes from non-desktop devices. As Google Analytics breaks it down: 3.9% mobile and 0.74% tablet.
Forums activity is down with 1,640 new topics this year from 2,440 last year and 4,020 in 2014. 4,861 replies to those topics, which is a quarter of the 20,120 replies posted in 2014.
5,185 comments on the blog a drop from the 5,864 last year, but not as drastic a drop as the forums.
We received 1,372 messages through our contact form, down from 1,621 last year. 18,848 total!
Overall, while web traffic is up, engagement that happens directly on the site is down. As we can see in social media numbers, engagement elsewhere is up. We even have 32,174 subscribers on YouTube, which we hardly ever link to. This is the first year we’ve tracked that number, so we’ll see where that goes next year.
Just a few weeks ago we crossed over 300K followers on our Twitter account. That’s up 50,000 from last year, which is amazing, but actually significantly slowed growth as we gained 90,000 in 2015. 68K likes on Facebook, up from 59K last year.
Another milestone was the re-launch of our newsletter (subscription page). For years we sent out a weekly, but it was auto-generated from the RSS feed. Now it is custom written and much more interesting. There is even content in there that only goes into the newsletter. We started it nearly from the ground up, starting at 13K subscribers in February and ending the year at 21K subscribers.
The Lodge is soon to be a thing of the past on CSS-Tricks. All those videos will remain, but we’ll kind of roll them into the Video Screencasts area. I guess that’s a hint enough: a redesign is coming!
Develop new and strong reference material for the CSS-Tricks community.
I’ll give us a B- on that. My thinking at the time was that we need to publish more content like our “complete guides”, because those have so much value. One of those can be worth 100 or more other random blog posts. We did some of that, which I’m happy about. Perhaps not as much as I was envisioning, but my thinking on it has also changed a bit. Any given blog post is building toward a more comprehensive set of information on that subject. Perhaps that culminates in a “complete guide” at some point, or can be assembled into a valuable set of posts (see goals), or informs more posts on the subject. Our posts tend to have pretty good long-term value anyway, so keeping a steady publishing schedule of that kind of content is pretty great.
More focus on the developing “the voice” of CSS-Tricks.
I’ll give us an A- on that. I’m very happy with how that turned out this year. I wrote it down as a goal, because we have more humans writing things for CSS-Tricks than ever before. This year had the most guest posts as we’ve ever had in a year and the highest number of staff writers.
Left completely unchecked, I think the voice of the site would roam. I’d prefer that didn’t happen. I’d prefer that everyday readers can expect a certain consistent spirit, even when the author changes. Through editing, I think we did pretty well there. It is even codified now:
Friendly. Authoritative. Welcoming. We’re all in this together. Flexible (non-dogmatic about ideas). Thankful.
- Double newsletter subscribers. Seems doable since newsletters are pretty popular right now and ours is hopefully actually interesting. It’s a way you can keep up with the site and industry without much effort, which it seems like there are plenty of folks interested in doing that. That’s only 21K more folks, and since we have passed 300K Twitter followers, we gotta be able to make that happen.
- More pairing videos. This will be harder to pull off since I’m traveling quite a lot this year and it’s hard to shoot video on the road. But I think it’s worth it. Two people talking through code together is so much fun and hopefully more engaging to watch than a solo video.
- Maintain a mostly-daily publishing schedule. We’ve done it the last few years, so I hope we can keep it up. Sometimes it feels scary when there is a drought of news or ideas don’t seem to be flowing. But we have a pretty good idea board on Trello, plenty of staff, and a decent amount of guest-posting interest, I think we can do it.
- Assemble content in more useful ways. This is my favorite goal. I think in the coming year we can leverage our archives of posts in better ways than we ever have.
Happy new year! Thanks to all y’all for sticking around another year, making this place a community and a sustainable business.