Site redesign attempts to rebuild plane while flying
Posted November 16, 2013
Updated November 21, 2013
Completing a complex project has been likened to rebuilding a jet aircraft while it is in flight. A year into the redesign of WRAL.com, I would say that's an apt comparison.
By early January, you will see a completely re-imagined and redesigned WRAL.com.
Everything from layout to fonts and navigation to load time has been reviewed, tested and improved. And all of this work has happened in the background while we have continued to deliver the same great content and marketing solutions you have come to expect from us.
Our last major redesign was almost exactly seven years ago. That's a very long time in internet years.
So this is not change for change's sake. If it was, we would have had several redesigns since 2006. The changes we are making now are designed to create a world-class user experience regardless of the way the site is accessed. That means building web pages that load quickly and cleanly on desktop machines, laptops, tablets, smartphones and new devices that have yet to be invented.
- Streamlined navigation
- Faster download of pages
- Less clutter throughout the site, especially on the homepage
- Larger photos
- Varied homepage designs for different news events
- Embedded video players on story pages and section fronts
- Customized content recommendations (think Amazon) based on your reading habits
- A redesigned sports section that more closely matches our news site
- Easier-to-read weather icons and fonts
- A new Map Center that puts all your favorite weather maps on one page for quick access
While you will notice plenty of visual and organizational changes when the new design is launched publicly in early January, you won't see changes in the content we are providing. You will still get all of the same timely, reliable and thorough news, weather, sports, political and entertainment coverage you have come to expect from us.
I have been involved with the initial launch of WRAL.com in January 1996 (at the time called WRAL OnLine) and three subsequent relaunches of the site. As you might expect, each one has become increasingly more complex. There are more pages, more video, more browsers, more advertisers, more ad units and many more visitors who have come to depend on the site -- one of the most visited local news websites in the country. (More than half of all adults in the Triangle area come to WRAL.com at least once a month, according to Media Audit.)
I expect some of you will criticize us for fixing something that is not broken. I understand that viewpoint. Human beings fundamentally don't like change. But in seven years, WRAL.com added a lot baggage or clutter. Pages grew in length and download time. And during that same time, newer technologies have offered us the opportunity to improve the way we deliver content and advertising to our audience.
Increasingly, WRAL.com content is being viewed on smaller screens, especially phones. So we made it a major objective of the redesign to give mobile users the same great content and functionality they have enjoyed all these years on laptops and desktops.
We are using a technology on the new site known as responsive design. Pages of content respond and adapt based on the available viewing area of your device. Every story, video and photo -- some 500,000 pieces of content -- can be searched and displayed on any device with an internet connection and a web browser.
The new mobile friendly web pages do not mean we are abandoning mobile apps. We will still aggressively enhance our existing suite of apps -- news, weather, sports, moms, entertainment and arrest photos -- and build new ones.
Want to get an early look at the new site? Be sure to register for an account on WRAL.com using the link near the search box at top of every page. We'll send an email next month to all registered users with details on when and how you can start your test drive. We hope you will like the new site as much as we do.