Conventional wisdom is that you should never, ever refactor a product after it ships. Underneath the hood of our newly launched redesign, however, we eagerly defied that convention.

What started as Om’s personal blog 11 years ago, quickly grew into a business with all the competing priorities and competition for resources that implies. The result is that code written when the site was migrated to WordPress in 2004 was still running on the site at the beginning of 2013. With that much legacy, feature development had become a minefield and bug fixing was more curation than extermination.

The newly launched site is still based on WordPress and hosted on WordPress.com VIP, but every feature, every deviation from baseline WordPress has been scrutinized. The stuff we kept was refactored to conform with our new coding standards and plugin structure (more about that in a later post), and subjected to new QA tests. The result is that where we once had 51,900 lines of PHP code we’re now down to 32,951, and includes new features, added in-line documentation, and adding/enforcing Allman-style braces on newlines.

We tossed aside other conventions as we geared up for all this. Some have argued that publishers didn’t build their own printing presses and should not build their own publishing tools in this age. We think they’re wrong.

GigaOM was founded on the philosophy that connectivity is a disruptor. To take best advantage of that we made the decision to staff up internally, rather than buy tools or outsource this redesign. The result is that we have a fantastic team and we’ll be applying the lessons learned in this redesign to our other properties and building on this responsive platform to quickly deliver new features.

A number of people worked on this redesign: Matt Batchelder, Zach Tirrell, and Jamie Poitra did the serious engineering. Stephen Engert with help from Arlo Jamrog and Jonathan Koshi got us started with the right design and then, yes, made it pretty once the moving pieces were working. Adam Kazwell, guided by Ian Kennedy, led product management, and we were glad to work with an outstanding editorial team lead by Nicole Solis and Ernie Sander. Finally, the WordPress.com VIP team has been enormously helpful in bringing this to completion.

We’re eager to get your feedback on the redesign as a comment on the official post.

  1. [...] Monday we launched a our redesign with thoroughly refactored internals. Above is a graph that WordPress.com offers VIP customers showing our average page generation time [...]

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