Chicago Gang History

:: WordPress / Pantheon / Route 53 / CloudFront

After 7-8 months the Jekyll version of Chicago Gang History we started seeing some scaling issues with media assets on CloudCannon. Rather than hacking it I instead worked with CGH author Zach Jones to perform a complete site redesign, leveraging existing ad revenue to migrate them to WordPress self-hosting.

The redesign was very successful and inbound search traffic continued to lift. A year following the redesign homepage hits are now greater than 70K per month.

website homepage

Work Involved

With more than 20,000 users per month at the time of migration—most driven by organic search traffic—we decided to pull out all the stops to prepare Chicago Gang History for their next period of growth.

Increased eCPM/RPM 1500% within 2 weeks of relaunch.
Increased eCPM/RPM 1500% within 2 weeks of relaunch.

All in all the CGH-II redesign involved more than 200 hours of research and development, design and testing. And the results are already speaking for themselves.


Audience Growth Chart

New Features

The WordPress redesign enabled us to sneak in some much-needed features, including:

Split testing for advertisements.
Split testing for advertisements.

It total about six weeks of work.


The Chicago Gang History site has been a great success since December, more than I could have bargained for. The redesign has blown my mind further, easier navigation, even sleeker design and beautiful taxonomies. Pretty much 100% of the new redesign ideas were imagineered by VHS and I was happy with every bit of it — it’s way better than I’d hoped for.

Zach Jones, Author of Chicago Gang History