NewswireToday - /newswire/ -
New York, NY, United States, 2014/10/15 - For over 20 years, the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate has served as readers’ go-to source for both breaking news and tracking the cultural pulse of the Bay Area - SFGate.com / Hearst.com.
SFGate.com has become an increasingly valued element of the paper’s content delivery in today’s digitally-focused media landscape. In exploring how that delivery could be enhanced for users, the Chronicle set out to rethink the site with a more forward-thinking design.
“SFGate.com produces a tremendous amount of content about the Bay Area and beyond,” says San Francisco Chronicle President Kristine Shine. “With this site redesign we wanted to be able to surface our content in an increasingly modern way and leverage more visual and engaging storytelling elements such as photos, videos and infographics.”
Hearst Newspaper’s digital products group reimagined the site, which launched October 8, from top to bottom in order to enhance the storytelling capabilities of Chronicle producers. SFGate.com will remain a free site for immediate breaking news, as well as highlights on local culture. The Chronicle’s other online site, SFChronicle.com, will maintain its current design and continue to serve as a premium subscription destination.
The user experience on the site is greatly improved with the help of a more visual, horizontal navigation bar, which led to a 40 percent higher click-through rate during beta testing. Another valuable upgrade: significantly faster load time for pages, videos and images.
The homepage, section pages and article pages have also been redesigned to surface material in a contemporary and accessible way. The homepage features a river-style format that surfaces the newest reporting at the top of the page with older content flowing downward. The new site includes more ways for users to engage with stories through easy social sharing functionality and an increased amount of coverage surfaced about the fold.
The Chronicle is also showcasing its beautiful photography in striking photo galleries that feature a more elegant design with a sleek black background. Additionally, article pages allow for more multimedia features including video, infographics and maps.
“The next generation user is consuming video at a much more rapid pace than their predecessors,” Shine says. “On the new SFGate.com, we’ve created more places where video can be employed within the design, providing our producers with new and more engaging ways to tell the stories that matter to Bay Area readers.”
Search is another element of the site that has been upgraded. Instituting Google Search Tools to replace the site’s old solution, SFGate.com saw a 65 percent increase in the success of user search during the beta testing period.
“In rethinking SFGate.com, we wanted to provide users with a more innovative, ‘breaking news’ type of experience,” says Hearst Newspapers Vice President of Digital Products Karen Brophy. “Our goal is to continue delivering the Chronicle’s prize-winning coverage to long-time readers in an intuitive format, while concurrently reaching a younger audience on the digital platforms where they live.”
The Hearst developers worked to optimize the site for different browsers and platforms. On desktop and tablet devices, SFGate.com reformats to present content in the most digestible manner for various screen sizes. The newly built photo viewing experience enables photos to remain prominent and eye-catching across devices.
For the first time, the Chronicle proactively set out to talk with its readers prior to a redesign. They sought input on areas for improvement, from layout and multimedia engagement to search functionality and social media. Following the redesign, the Chronicle returned for additional user feedback, which helped direct the final product.
“The feedback we received from readers has been incredible,” Brophy says. “We had over 2,000 people fill out surveys and we also conducted many one-on-one feedback sessions with SFGate users. We’ve garnered that the users are universally pleased with the visual browsing elements, the speed and the increased use of photos and videos. SFGate.com will also continue to evolve as we receive additional feedback and explore new, improved ways to tell stories.”