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The Story of Visual Stories

Manali Oak
VisualStories.com is a multi-tenant, multi-site platform that has a multi-author AMP CMS at its core. It lets publishers create winsome websites that are optimized for mobile, speed and search engine rankings. These websites harness cutting-edge web technologies and have AMP-paired articles and Web Stories as their content format.
Every website gets a responsive design that is compatible with all devices. Technical SEO is integrated such that the site performs better and ranks well.
The websites are hosted and fully managed by Visual Stories. This saves publishers from the technical complexities of the setup and maintenance of their websites and gives them a hassle-free experience.

New features and optimizations are implemented automatically.

Addressing Publisher Pain Points

Being in the publishing industry for over 15 years and having handled millions of pageviews per month, we understand that publishers generally struggle with:
  • Gaining Traffic
  • Ranking in Search Engines
  • Google Updates
  • User Engagement
  • User Retention
  • Monitoring Quality of User Generated Content
  • Social Sharing
  • Optimized Monetization
  • Keeping Up with Latest Technology Trends
Our system is designed to provide an effective, one-stop solution to problems that publishers commonly face.

Current Features

1. Multi-tenant

Our platform is multi-tenant and highly scalable. Our developers build features that apply to all clients at once. It makes the development process more effective and the service more affordable to each client.

2. Multi-site

Multiple websites can be created and managed from a single place using the same account.
3. A No-code Solution

Publishers get a mobile-optimized website with AMP and PWA features, without writing a single line of code. Publishers just need to point their domain/subdomain to our servers, and focus on what they can do best - creating content.

4. For existing websites we recommend getting Web Stories feature on a subdomain like stories.example.com.
5. Team, User Roles and Editorial Workflow

A tenant can add his team members (employees, freelancers, service providers) in different user roles (author, editor, media manager).
6. Our user-friendly AMP Page Builder tool lets a user create an Web Story or AMP-paired article quite easily in minutes.

7. When an image is uploaded for use in a Web Story, a cropping tool helps getting the image as per Google’s specifications. As sizes and shapes are known, we use them to improve web design.
8. Free Image Library

Websites can use these images for free in their Web Stories. Images are cut as per Web Story specifications.

9. Progressive Web App (PWA) using amp-install-serviceworker

Websites double up as PWAs on mobile as well as desktop.
10. Music Library

Visual Stories has a library of music files. Webapps are able to add music to their Web Stories.

11. Video Library

It has a library of vertical videos in sizes fitting Web Story specifications. Webapps are able to use these videos in their Web Stories.
12. Technical SEO

Sites are optimized for speed and user engagement. Search engine-friendly features like sitemap, JSON-LD (for schema.org), canonical, related pages and others, are integrated by default.

13. GDPR support using amp-geo and amp-consent. Analytics is with both Google Analytics and amp-pixel.
14. Monetization

Webapps are monetized with Adsense (on articles) and Publisher Served Ads (on Web Stories).

15. Multi-site Content Creation

An author can contribute content to multiple webapps using one user account.
16. User-Generated Content (UGC)

Webapps can choose Guest Blogging feature and open up to accept UGC from content marketers. UGC goes through a moderation process, which ensures that publishers get a way to monitor content quality.
17. Common Userbase

Instead of each site trying to create its own separate userbase, all sites come together and form a common userbase of content creators. Together they form a formidable force. Content creators too can choose to become contributors of multiple sites from a single place.

Flexible and Scalable Architecture

The core strength of Visual Stories is its database design.

Databases are sharded and distributed such that the platform is endlessly scalable.

The software architecture is inspired by Instagram and Pinterest engineering.

Card-based CMS

Pages can be of different types (articles, stories, homepage, topics, boards, about, etc.). And the content of any page is stored as cards (or blocks).

The new WordPress editor Gutenberg used this approach, but their blocks are not database-driven and hence not future-proof. Each block's format and settings are stored in content itself, as HTML comments.
Our cards are at the database level, and it gives us granular programmatic control over each card.

If any card level functionality is to be updated in future, it’s very easy for us. This makes our approach future proof.
With AMP still evolving, such updates keep coming. 

New functionality can be plugged in easily by adding new Card Types. E.g. when Quiz, Poll, Maps or VRView will be added to Web Stories, we’ll easily be able to integrate them into our CMS. If any functionality changes, bulk data operation on cards is easy and practical.

Features Launching Soon

1. Monetizing Web Stories with DFP and Adsense

2. Customizations: More themes and templates for website design are coming soon.

3. More story-level customization are being added.
4. All components that Web Stories will eventually support will be implemented in our CMS. Details on Github show that components like riddle-quiz, vrview, Maps, YouTube and more, are coming.
5. Content Library

Visual Stories plans to have a pool of evergreen content cards forming a first of its kind content library. Cards will be of various types like quotes, facts, quizzes, polls, etc. They will be visual and up-to-date.

These ready-to-use cards will be searchable and available for use in Web Stories.
6. 360 degree photos and VR libraries will also be considered after the music, video and content libraries are launched.
7. Topics, Personalization and Notifications

Webapps will soon have topics. Content will be organized under relevant topics for ease of navigation. PWAs will gather user interests and personalize the experience. Relevant notifications will be sent.

Features Planned for VisualStories.com

VisualStories.com will show the latest content from multiple webapps in one place, becoming an additional source of traffic to webapps in its network.

Let's look at some of its planned features.
1. Personalized Feed

Users will follow their favorite Topics, Authors, Webapps or Boards to get the latest Stories on subjects they like.

This data will power the recommendation engine, resulting in personalized feeds, relevant notifications and newsletters.

Users will get relevant Web Stories from multiple webapps in one place.
2. Boards

Users will be able to save Stories they like, to Boards, for reading later. This visual bookmarking system should help drive more traffic to sites.

A Board will also be followable (if board creator makes it public).
3. Social Features

Social features like Friends, Like, Share and related notifications are also planned.

4. NewsStories.app is planned to be a domain dedicated to bringing news in Web Stories format, in one place. This will help send traffic to news publishers who join our network.
5. Languages

We plan to have a subdomain dedicated to each popular language, like hi.visualstories.com dedicated to Hindi, fr.visualstories.com for French, etc. It will send traffic to webapps using the respective language.
Each subdomain will be opened up for UGC, giving users an opportunity to blog in Web Stories format, in languages of their choice. The dedicated environment should eventually help form a community.