Associated Northcliffe Digital is redesigning all 36 websites across its “thisis” network.
Thisisnottingham is the first site to have been redesigned and the rest will be rolled out across the country by the end of April.
Sites are being chosen on a geographic basis rather than by popularity, with Hull and Plymouth next in line.
The “thisis” network has not had a major redesign since January 2005 and it was felt the sites were not emphasising the multimedia content that had been made available over the past two years.
Robert Hardie, managing editor of AND Integrated Media, who headed up the redesign with an in house team of designers and developers, said: “Clearly in that more than two year period web technology has moved on dramatically in the way you display information.
“We wanted to make use of web design tools such as AJAX which we used for new tabs for news and sport etc.
It’s more about the user experience now.
We deliver in the same way but it means the user can download the information much more quickly. We can display the information more attractively.
“We need to be able to showcase some of the multimedia advances we have made in that period particularly video, but also in terms of interactivity.
It was all available before but the design has been about bringing that to the fore, for instance in the list of stories it says the number of comments each one has. We want to make these things more visible on the sites. The navigation down the left side has a new multimedia box which directs people to video. It didn’t get the prominence it deserved before.”
The 36 sites will look similar. A lighter, sky blue shade has been selected for the background as well as tabs to select different content such as news or sport, making the home page less cluttered.
Hardie said: “The economics and logistics of producing 36 websites mean you have to take a relatively templated approach. But there will be an individual flavour for each site. For instance Hull will have a greater video presence because they produce their own local video and have more than 40 video journalists within the paper alone.”
Northcliffe is currently going through a major programme of transferring ownership of web publishing to local newspaper centres. Previously it had a central team doing all the web publishing.
Hardie believes that the whole company’s drive towards the multimedia age needs to be reflected by giving journalists more input.
“We want to empower journalists and say to them they can play a part in producing it. Over that period we’ve trained all the individual journalists on the papers to do web publishing as well.”