Register-Guard bets on a mobile future with responsive Web design


Working on a Web site redesign? Which device will you focus on? iPhone? iPad? Samsung Galaxy 10? Google Nexus 7? Kindle Fire? MacBook? Your mother’s 20-inch (deep, not wide) IBM from 2001 that still runs Internet Explorer 6 Web browser version? 

The options people have for their Web browsing just keep coming — and that’s not likely to change. 

Here at The Register-Guard, we asked ourselves this question a little over a year ago. 

We determined that our resources were not vast enough to justify working on several different site designs, nor did we want to plan on redesigning the site again and again each year (though certainly any site needs constant tweaks and is never “done”). 

We also noticed our existing Web site’s mobile traffic source numbers continue to spike along with the growing global usage of mobile devices as Web browsing preference (see recent ComScore report stating more than 33% of time online is now on mobile devices. 

At the time, responsive Web design was just starting to become a buzzword in Web design circles and The Boston Globe had just launched its new site using this method. While we certainly acknowledged that we are not The Boston Globe, we knew we could accomplish this design ourselves and that the time invested in doing so would pay off. 

So we got to work.

Web site redesigns always take longer than you think they will. And then they take longer than the revised expectations. And then they take longer than that. We didn’t make any public announcements about a pending redesign, and we didn’t drag our feet on other projects during the redesign construction efforts. 

What we did do was:

  • Tease our advertisers over the last several months with previews of how the ads will “respond” same as the content. 

  • Got lots of general feedback from readers and community members about the current site and what they would like to see changed. 

  • Redesigned all of our digital advertising materials and went through months of internal sales training discussions, four-legged calls with our new addition digital sales specialist and several newsroom discussions about why we need more focus on digital content. In other words, we spent time working on our foundation (see my previous post, “How onling advertising is like a wayward teenager”). 

  • We cultivated better relationships with our ad agencies and direct advertisers towards a larger digital footprint for ourselves with the pending redesign and several new digital ad support programmes (search engine marketing, audience extension, behavioral targeting, e-mail marketing, etc.). 

  • We proceeded with plans and development around our upcoming pay meter installation (to be released shortly). 

  • We worked hard on our social media approach (admittedly, a work in progress).

Our new site launched just yesterday. We did provide some sneak previews to our readers within the last few weeks, mostly using our special section content. And we are now poised to properly capitalise on these many months of foundation building. 

And, with the responsive framework in place, we have a template on which to plug in future new project efforts that will be multi-device friendly from day one (such as our very successful and popular annual Readers Choice programme).

We feel that the responsive design allows for easy social media link sharing and great print-to-Web extras promotion without having to worry about asking readers to download anything or have the right device in hand.

We’ve crafted several advertising packages that contain mobile display ad components to ensure we have a strong local ad presence and help advertisers dip their toes in these proverbial mobile waters.

Digital ad revenue is up 40% year-over-year so far in 2013. Our ad reps and content producers are better outfitted (ad reps with iPads, several content creators with iPhones). Our newsroom is prioritised with heavier digital-slant (towards an eventual digital-first model – but crawling before walking and all that).

And our circulation and customer service team working toward bundled content access plans and justified reasoning behind asking our more voracious readers to pay to get all access.

We feel we are in the best possible position to build up from a sturdy foundation in 2013 into high-tech high-rise in the years ahead.

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