The website for Britain’s biggest selling regional paper has been given a “cleaner look” as part of a complete redesign.
MNA Digital, the online arm of the Midland News Association (MNA), publisher of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, has launched the new sites for its daily titles.
The platforms have innovative designs and are the first in the UK to be built and powered by the Washington Post's Arc Publishing, a state-of-the-art digital platform and suite of tools engineered to meet the needs of modern publishers.
The user experience for Expressandstar.com and Shropshirestar.com has been improved following intensive design projects including public testing.
The team behind the new websites have been working on development for more than a year. They believe the designs will make it easier for users to navigate their way around.
By providing defined areas for key content, including local news and sport, as well as giving prominent commercial slots, the designers believe the site has less clutter, making it easier to for people to navigate around and find the content they are looking for.
The team have also focused on making the sites more mobile friendly to benefit the 62 per cent of MNA web users who visit using a handheld device.
Andy Hill, managing director of MNA Digital, said: "We are really pleased with the cleaner design for the Expressandstar.com and Shropshirestar.com.
“I would like to congratulate my team for their work, as well as colleagues in editorial and across the business, who have completed such a significant piece of work.
“The navigation of the sites was an important part of the project that received a lot of attention. The objective was to simplify the navigation and make it easier for our readers to find the content that they are interested in.
"During the project we conducted extensive user research, which showed that our sites were cluttered and confusing to navigate meaning that it could be hard for a reader to find the content they are searching for.
"Offering our readers too much choice through the navigation was counter-productive. The new navigation is simple to understand and works well on a mobile as it is easy to use on a small screen.
"This is important because over 60% of our users access our websites using their mobile phones."
The MNA is the first UK publisher to use the technology used by the Washington Post. The websites are fed by content directly from Knowledge, the MNA’s content management system (CMS), which is produced by sister company Press Computer Systems.
The CMS allows senior print reporters to upload content straight to the websites using the MNA’s editorial system Knowledge, produced by sister company Press Computer Systems, giving them a direct route to publish online.
This is the first time print journalists at the MNA have been able to publish their work onto the site, bringing the digital and print teams closer together.
Mike Woods, head of digital editorial content for the MNA, said: “It’s been a huge undertaking to relaunch our websites at the same time as we overhaul the workflow in the newsroom to take a more digital-first approach to publishing.
“The Washington Post’s software allows us to have far greater editorial control over the look and feel of our websites than was previously possible, and we’re delighted with the end result.”
“We are delighted to be working with MNA Digital and to bring the advanced capabilities of the Arc Publishing platform to their new websites,” said Matthew Monahan, sales and product lead for Arc Publishing at the Post.
“Arc Publishing is built for publishers focused on digital expansion and who want the flexibility to tell rich, engaging stories online. The MNA’s new sites can leverage the same sophisticated content distribution, personalisation and testing products that the Washington Post uses in its own newsroom, as well as future upgrades to the suite.”
The website designs were created in partnership with London based award winning agency Cyber-Duck, who worked to brief set by the MNA.
Cyber-Duck developed a user centred approach with the aim of ensuring the websites gave visitors an exceptional experience.
Matt Gibson, chief creative officer at the agency, said: “We worked with the MNA to develop websites with a great balance between editorial and commercial content.
“By researching and understanding the behaviour of our readers as well as their journeys through the websites we have been able to create a better reading experience across all platforms.
“With user experience being so vital for retaining and growing MNA’s readership, we are delighted to have worked with MNA and its readers to help shape a more intuitive way to find, read and interact with content online.”
Following the launch of the new MNA websites, the Wolverhampton-based MNA Digital team plan to roll out the designs to their sister Claverley titles the Jersey Evening Post and the Guernsey Press.