I’ve been working on other projects, including a dating app, but I recently decided to make improvements to the site I launched last year.
Last year I wanted to make a website that does one thing very well. With that in mind, I launched Quizzly – a site that people can use to make their own multiple choice quizzes. I knew that there were already a lot of quiz sites out there, but in my opinion they were all aimed at personality quizzes. Fun, if you’re into that kind of thing, but highly subjective.
I wanted to make something that teachers, students, and anyone else can use as a study aid. More in that realm lie sites like Sporcle, which are fantastic for trivia. They offer a wide variety of quiz types, but the interface is a little crowded in my opinion.
I wanted something clean and minimal, so there would be no distraction while taking quizzes. And again, I wanted something that did one thing very well, which to me meant having only one quiz type – multiple choice.
Last Fall, I believed I had a product that wasn’t perfect, but it worked well. Users could make their own multiple choice quizzes and users could take them, get a score, and see which answers they missed.
I then completely ignored the site for about six months. I worked on other projects, one of which is a dating app that matches based on the bands you like. More on that project soon.
As Quizzly started to get more traffic and people made their own awesome quizzes, I took another look at it and felt it needed some updates. So I made a list, started the local server, and got to work. The changes include, but aren’t limited to:
Switched from HTTP to HTTPS
Switched from WWW to non-WWW
Added Canonical Link Tags
Switching to HTTPS
Making the site more secure was the top priority. While not necessary for static sites (this blog, for instance) Quizzly has user logins and user-generated content. Furthermore, most browsers flag pages delivered without HTTPS and give users scary sounding messages. You don’t want people to be scared of your website. To fix this, I purchased an SSL certificate, changed the domain name servers, and in my application server, redirected all requests for HTTP to HTTPS.
Switching to non-WWW
This was purely an aesthetic choice. Most site visitors probably wouldn’t notice whether the URL starts with “www” or not, but to me it looked ugly. The TLD is “.co”, which looks like the site is going for the whole brevity thing. Having the “www” countermanded that, so I decided to switch to having a non-www, or “naked,” domain.
While I wanted something minimal, I didn’t want it to look boring. The style improvements were pretty minimal, and in fact this is an area that will get more attention. The trick here is for the site to look like something that users can interact with.
Stormpath was a good user management service, and Quizzly relied on their API for user authentication and management. They shut down their API yesterday, because they joined Okta. I checked out Okta but it looked pricey. I ended up choosing Firebase, a Google product, for user authentication and management. User management and authentication is an area where you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
I took a tip from the big ecommerce sites and added canonical link tags on my sort pages. Every quiz topic, i.e. Astronomy or Film, on my site has 10 URLs associated with it, each of which renders the quizzes in that topic using a different sort method. Now, all 10 of those topic pages reference a single sort page. That gives the search engines a better idea of which sort page to index.
The original way users added an image to their quiz was by via an image URL. I stored the URL in my database and rendered the quiz with that exact URL. That is a bad idea. I admit it was just a quick hack because I didn’t yet want to spend time figuring out where to host images. Now, users upload images from their own device, they are stored in the cloud, and delivered via CDN. I’m using Cloudinary for image storage and couldn’t be happier with it.
Spaces are fine in URLs, but they do render as “%20”. In order to make the links to my site more human-readable, I wanted to make sure that all spaces were replaced with a dash. I couldn’t just write a redirect, because my database queries come from the URL. A query for a quiz with the spaces changed to dashes would fail.
I likewise couldn’t change the URL’s dashes to spaces just for the query because of the cases in which a quiz title is supposed to have a dash in it. As in, a real dash. Not a slug dash.
First, I wrote a function that turns each user’s quiz title into a slug. A quiz titled, “Hemingway’s Novels”, for example, would have the slug, “hemmingways-novels”. I did the same for all user topic tags. For the tags, I added a “tag” collection in my database so that tags can be queried faster, without needing to use any aggregation pipeline to dig through the “quizzes” database. The tag collection consists only of tag names, e.g. “American Authors”, and their corresponding slugs, e.g. “american-authors”.