In late August of 2017, we launched the new Morgan County Citizen website. This project was daunting when we first encountered it. There were thousands of articles with little to no organization and tons of problems, however with just over a month of redesigning, redeveloping, and deploying the website to a new hosting platform, it was a fantastic launch. In fact the Citizen’s website grew beyond what we even expected while we were watching site statistics.
The existing website was outdated, difficult to search, and readers had often complained about a myriad of problems from not being able to see content or functionality being broken, to the entire website being down. With us being local to the area, we had witnessed the website problems as we tried to view it.
From the development stand point, we had to start from the ground up. The website had been compromised multiple times, each hack leaving a bit of code that caused additional problems. From the aspect of cost savings, it made sense to start over from nothing and import the existing articles and content. As many developers know, this can be a difficult task as not all systems export data in the proper formats to move from one system to another.
The newly designed site was a huge upgrade over the existing site. The site was fully functional, looked great, and was generating an additional source of income for the newspaper from day one of the launch. They were able to sell advertising space on their website, readers were able to purchase subscriptions online, and readers were able to find what they were looking for. While we anticipated that the new website development, even without us providing SEO or search engine optimization services, would begin ranking better on search engines, we didn’t expect the growth to happen as fast as it did.
Within a few short months average traffic, new users, sessions had grown over 35%. Comparing those numbers now has just shown a huge growth to their user base and advertising revenue.
Improvements since launch
Since the launch of their new site, we have made minor adjustments, bug fixes, and have overall provided support to the Citizen's employees while they worked with the website. However we have made a few significant improvements to improve the overall experience and to increase their return on investment.
Galleries within news posts
We all like to see photos of events, news, and to see what happened at other news-worthy events, however when we first launched the site, the photos were not our primary concern as traditionally they had only uploaded one photo with each post. With this improvement, readers would be about to see more photos and enlarge them for better visibility.
Online subscriptions that allowed users to view unlimited news articles
While the traffic increased, the Citizen's physical newspaper purchases were not increasing proportionately. In order to increase their return on investment, we established an online subscription system that allowed users to purchase an online subscription in exchange of the ability to read and unlimited amount of online articles each day.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
With AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages, mobile devices can be issued an altered "minimalist" version of the web page they are trying to visit. This helps readers with older devices, or users with slower connections to see and read the article without having to wait for it to load.