ShareThis is an advertising technology company that provides free engagement and growth tools for site owners. Their tools allow the sharing of content across 40+ social channels and are used by over three million publishers globally.
ShareThis buttons enable website visitors to share any content with friends via email and popular social networks. To increase its popularity in the WordPress ecosystem, ShareThis acquired a popular WordPress plugin that allowed users to pair their own Google Analytics accounts with their website in order to track visitor behavior.
To accomplish this feat, a complete rewrite of the plugin was required; the code acquired by ShareThis was of both low quality and limited usability. Beyond this rewrite, ShareThis had ideas for new features to integrate into the plugin, some of which were based on the ShareThis API. And, since the original plugin had over 600,000 installs, ShareThis needed a partner who knew how to build a web application plugin that was not only compatible with many different server configurations, but one that could also be used by a global user base.
To meet these needs, Astec identified the lowest required versions of server software that had to be supported by the plugin. Our developers leveraged the minimal amount of PHP’s features, while also supporting new technology like IPv6.
Astec built a visitor graph, which the plugin makes visible inside the WordPress Dashboard, using the Google Charts library to ensure maximum cross-compatibility across user devices. Lastly, we installed a “Send Debug” button that allows users to easily inform the development team about product issues.
- Servers: The new version of the plugin needed to maintain its functionality on websites that were using it before the ShareThis acquisition.
- WordPress plugins: The plugin also needed to work in conjunction with over 50,000 other WordPress plugins that could be installed on a user’s website.
- User devices: ShareThis wanted the plugin to be compatible across all user devices (desktop and mobile), operating systems and different iterations of web browsers.
Minimal API Calls
Sending hundreds of thousands of requests to Google APIs in small timeframes undoubtedly causes issues. For this reason, it was important to make sure that all plugin users had fast access to Google Analytics data from their WordPress Dashboard. Accordingly, availability of Google Analytics API access had to be ensured at all times. Based on our experience and historical data, Astec built a caching-mechanism that not only reduced Google Analytics API calls to a minimum, but also significantly improved loading times for the user.
Astec deploys a 5-person team, consisting of a product manager, project manager, two web developers and one QA engineer
To better understand the project requirements and properly meet the client’s needs and wishes, we communicated with ShareThis (via Google Hangouts) to obtain project specifications that would shape the development process. This collaboration also gave us the opportunity to present our own, seasoned advice that is based off having worked on similar projects in the past. The actual project was completed using Scrum, while issues were reported in GitHub and tasks were managed in JIRA. Again, we used Google Hangouts, during client business hours, to hold Daily Scrums. Although an Astec product manager was available on-call, 24/7, we also established a channel of communication with our client through Slack to guarantee full cooperation and transparency.
Astec optimizes the plugin’s user experience and decreases maintenance costs
Users are now able to view visitor trends including page views, users, pages per session and bounce rates inside the WordPress Dashboard without having to log-in to Google Analytics. These metrics are displayed in the form of beautiful, user-friendly graphs, generated by Google Charts.
Traffic sources indicate where visitors are coming from. Trending content information shows site managers which content performs better than average and allows them to iterate off their prior success. Alerts inform users via email or Slack when such content is taking off. All plugin views in the WordPress Dashboard are fully optimized for mobile devices, which allows users to view data not only on desktop computers and laptops, but also on their phones and tablets when they’re on the go.