The Mirror relaunched its website this week, with a cleaner design and integration of personalisation technology.
I’ve been talking to Product Director at Trinity Mirror (and Econsultancy guest blogger) Malcolm Coles about the thinking behind the new site design.
Why have you relaunched the site?
The old website has been around for several years, with an old content management system.
We wanted to give our journalists a more modern tool to publish their work, and we also needed a new platform which would enable us to integrate social media more effectively.
Now we have a new CMS, and we’re trying new technology such as the personalised news suggestions from London-based startup Rummble Labs.
What are the main goals of the new site?
We aim to increase the number of pages viewed per visit by each user, and features such as the personalised recommendations will help us to achieve this.
Another aim is to showcase our great photography more than we did with the old site. That one had plenty of photos, but didn’t really provide the space the show them properly.
Now, journalists can add metadata to posts with great photos, and they will be given more prominence.
We also wanted to have fewer ad slots, but make them more appealing and therefore more valuable to users. We’re definitely not going down the paywall route.
Also, comments will be open on all articles by default, which is the opposite of how it used to be, so we hope this will encourage more people to stick around and leave their views.
They’ll be on now for most stories, though for legal reasons, not every single one.
How do you handle comments?
We use the latest version of Pluck, which has some built-in moderation tools, and we post-moderate all comments, in part relying on readers to flag inappropriate comments.
How does the personalisation work?
The old site was relatively cluttered, and though we promoted a lot of stories on thr homepage, I think it gave people has less idea of where to look and go on the site.
Before launching this version, we spent a lot of time working out how to help people find what they want.
People tend to snack on news sites, maybe browsing during breaks, lunch hours, and so on, and personalisation helps them to find something that will interest them.
The technology will learn from the articles that people choose to read as they browse the site, and will recommend a further reading list at the right hand side of articles.
These are based on the user’s viewing history, and will recommend stories based on this, and what other people who liked the same article also liked.
In addition, users can sign in with their Facebook logins and receive recommendations based on their interests.
Recommended news pulls up a list, so a 30 year old woman with an interest in celebrity sees something different than a 40 year old Arsenal supporting man.
One thing I noticed on the new site was the ‘mega’ drop down menus. These are now common in e-commerce but less so on news sites.
Yes, e-commerce sites have increasingly used these as a way of allowing people to see each section at a glance quickly access product pages deep in the site.
In the same way, these provide our users with a shortcut to the main stories in each menu, as well as allowing them to see the top stories in each section at a glance.
Now you’ve launched the new site, will you continue to test and tweak?
With the previous redesign (in 2008), it was launched, and then nothing much was changed after that.
There were a lot of user testing before relaunching this version of the site and we’ll be using lots of MVT as we go on, as well as learning what works and what doesn’t from web analytics data.
Which sections people use most, how they navigate around the site, and so on. We’ll then be able to make changes to improve and increase usage of the site.
Have you relaunched the mobile site too? What proportion of traffic comes through this channel?
Yes, we’ve also launched m.mirror.co.uk mobile site, all built in HTML5.
Mobile traffic currently accounts for an eighth of all traffic, though it wouldn’t surprise me if it overtakes online at some point.
Later in the year, we’ll also be looking at iPads and tablets. the question is whether we design apps or optimise for tablets using style sheets.