Britain’s biggest-selling regional newspaper, the Express and Star, has bolstered its online offering with a new web platform built by the Washington Post and a complete site redesign.
Publisher the Midland News Association (MNA) said the new sites give the West Midlands title, and sister the Shropshire Star, a “cleaner look” and simplifies the navigation of content for readers.
A new content management system also means it is the first time that print journalist are able to publish their work directly on to the website.
The website designs were created in partnership with London-based agency Cyber-Duck, who worked to brief set by the MNA.
Andy Hill, managing director of MNA Digital, said: “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 per cent of our users access our websites using their mobile phones.”
The Express and Star has an average daily circulation of just under 55,000 copies, the most of any regional daily in the UK, while the Shropshire Star sells just over 26,000, according to the latest ABC figures to December.
Neither title is independently audited for web audience figures, however MNA figures put average daily unique users for April at 98,733 on Expressandstar.com and 43,650 on Shropshirestar.com.
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.”
Matthew Monahan, sales and product lead for Arc Publishing at the Post, added: “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.”
Picture: From left – Will Beavis, Mike Woods, Andy Hill, Matt Nelson and Ian Baker