Core Publisher and Responsive Web Design: Goals

Mar 24, 2014

2014 marks a major initiative for NPR Digital Services -- the responsive redesign of Core Publisher.

(This is article two of three. Read about Why We Are Doing a Redesign Now and the Redesign Roadmap for more info.)

With all projects at Digital Services we determine *goals at the outset and and we use these goals as beacons on our way towards this project’s completion.

We want to:

  • Collaborate with stations (CPAG)
  • Provide stations with more flexibility
  • Optimize the listening experience
  • Design beautiful, modern, responsive sites
  • Provide value to stations as quickly as possible

Collaborate with Stations (CPAG)

Early in the redesign project we met with more than 30 digital, marketing, and membership people from 22 differently sized and staffed stations. We asked them to help us define how we can enhance Core Publisher to meet the broader needs of the public media audience. 

Since it’s inception, we have met twice to discuss specific flexibility challenges in Core Publisher, once to validate our proposed roadmap, and in smaller groups we have reviewed responsive site headers and branding, and underwriting in Core Pub. Up next for CPAG are discussions around a persistent player and our new responsive post. All of these webinars are archived at NPR Stations, including decks and recorded webinars for you to review. 

Increase Flexibility

After reviewing the CP survey results it became crystal clear that any changes to Core Publisher must be met with increased flexibility in the tool. We have excellent data about what flexibility means to stations from tickets CP practitioners have submitted over the years and from comments in the survey. 

After two very lively webinars with the CPAG, we distilled areas in CP we can attack that will meet the greatest flexibility needs. This is what we heard. Essentially, while Digital Services may have a very specific view of how CP should look and behave for your users, stations want greater control over layout and curation. Digital Services built CP to make content publishing and distribution easy.

A lot of decisions are made in the background by CP so stations can focus on writing news. But in reality this has meant station personnel can spend too much time “hacking” CP or managing station colleagues, which takes time away from “writing more news.” So every feature we build with this new look is being put through its paces regarding flexibility. Please imagine that this can be very expensive, so we are being as strategic as possible. For example, we are focusing on additional layout options on posts and additional blocks on the modular homepage. 

Optimize Listening

I’m sure you’ve heard Kinsey Wilson speak about changing the way our users access and interact with NPR and station audio. With this important goal at NPR, we also want to change how audio is presented to your audience in Core Publisher. 

There are two things we plan on doing with this redesign. We are building a persistent player, like recently implemented and the player on Core Publisher mobile sites. This means, users can be listening to audio while surfing the site. For Core Publisher mobile sites, we almost tripled streaming on mobile with the implementation of the persistent mobile player. In recent usability tests we found our subjects were quite confused when managing the multiple tabs required when using a pop-up player. Potential increases in streaming and minimizing audience confusion makes us want to double down on the persistent player, not just for mobile, but across all browser sizes, including desktop. 

Secondly, we want to find a way to expose, promote, and highlight on-demand audio. We increasingly feel on-demand in CP audio is ghettoized, hidden away on post pages, not promoted on the website as a separate asset for the audience to enjoy. What can we do with on-demand audio to get people more engaged with it? We aim to increase streaming and “bite-sized” listening across platforms. 

Responsive, Modern, Beautiful Sites

The CP design is more than three years old. It has carried its weight, but the web has changed in technology and look. We want the sites to function much better for your users and support the modern web design your audience is now used to. 

Offering Value Along the Way

As you can imagine, a CP redesign with all these goals incorporated is a lot of work. Going dark for months starves the team of ongoing validation from stations and end users, opening us up to failure. In addition, we need to support the work stations are doing today in Core Publisher. We plan to roll out new features to all Core pub sites while we do the redesign (as evidenced by the image and slideshow work we have done recently). And we plan a staged roll out of the new responsive look so we can get a wide variety of feedback. 

*For this project we validated our goals with the Core Publisher Advisory Group. You can review the deck and webinar where we discussed goals at