Many wondered why it took us so long to modernize our flagship site FingerLakes1.com. Statistically most web pages die shortly after their creation, only averaging a lifespan of about 100 days. This is up from the late 1990s when the number was closer to 44 days. FingerLakes1.com has been helping people find what they are looking for in our surrounding communities, and offering unique local programming since 1999. More recently, we have bolstered our own news reporting and that makes us an even more important resource for our viewership.
All this means people are so attached to various aspects of the site that even slight changes to the home page in the past have been met with swift complaints. People get very used to being able to interact with a wellused site, we now average well over one million page views per month. Regular viewers can be thrown off by even minor adjustments. So, when we started to consider changing the site we knew this would be a sensitive and possibly even game changing move.
We had put it off long enough and now it had to be done. The site needed a modern interface and more mobile-friendly viewing on phones and tablets. We had been implementing WordPress on our customer’s sites for years, and we knew that the WordPress content management system could make dealing with large complicated sites much easier. This is what we needed to do to move forward with efficiency, while making mobile friendly viewing a better experience.
Of primary importance was porting over the history that the FingerLakes1.com site represented. People had to be able to find what they were used to seeing on the old site. Migrating over the old information was a daunting task. “We have been covering the headlines, people and places of the Finger Lakes since 1999 and we didn’t want to lose all the hard work and legacy articles that had been compiled over the past nearly two decades. Getting that information and content onto the new system, so it would be included in search results, was a big first step for this project.” said Jim Sinicropi, President of FingerLakes1.com.
Our starting point was FingerLakes1.TV. To quote CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “we see a world where video is first, with video at the heart of all of our apps and services.” All of our engaging, original programming had to be available. We started here because as Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz said, “video is the new html.” We feel that local video content is the future of the web. Sinicropi described the shift this way, “Digital video is now able to be accessed on phones, televisions and tablets. When we started creating digital video content, the cellular and wireless technology had not developed to support video. Those days are over and it is just as likely for our users to watch a high school basketball game we produce on FL1 Sports on their phone as it is their computer or television.”
From that point, we moved on to the much larger and more complicated task of building our new platform for publishing local news content. We tackled all of the various issues that had to be resolved to make the site work while maintaining enough of the its old flavor to make it a comfortable transition for users. This presented a lot of challenges we had not faced with most of our clients’ sites.
Our old website used a lot of proprietary programming that had to be brought along to function in the new site. “Most of the code base for our custom news aggregation system was still quite usable and only needed to be refactored slightly to leverage modern web server engines and browsers. It was enjoyably nostalgic for me to revisit something I’d written over ten years ago, and to see it put to used again with equal efficiency.” said Jessamy Uticone, Vice President of Operations.
Over thirty plugins had to be found and tested to work with one another to make the site function smoothly. Thom Prati, our Lead Web Developer, described the customization process as an interesting challenge. “I contacted the theme designer and several of the plugins’ authors to work out how best to utilize each component’s unique features together. I wrote a lot of customized code, with their help, in order to combine and improve some of their software’s components. This allowed us to achieve what our users are looking for.”
Since we made the switch, we have received many valued suggestions from our users. Many small adjustments have been made to the site to help make the site what you tell us you want it to be. And we are continually trying to make FingerLakes1.com the local website of choice for our loyal viewers. Prati related that, “We’ve sunk a lot of time into optimization of the website’s WordPress framework, theme, plugins and our own content creation process to ensure that the site remains quick and easy to load. We will continue to improve this aspect of our website but especially for mobile users who might be using their monthly bandwidth to visit our site.”
“The modernization of FingerLakes1.com provides our news team with the ability to deliver the information people rely on to stay informed in an interactive way that simply wasn’t possible with the old model.” says Josh Durso, News Editor, and one of the primary back-end users.
Please, let us know what your experience with the new site has been, so we can keep making it the best website for Finger Lakes news. Check out the new site at www.fingerlakes1. com. To have us do the same for your website or to suggest a feature for ours, please, contact us at contact@fingerlakes1. com or call 315-712-0104.
By: Janice Loudon
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