Editing The Guardian

March 31, 2014


The front-page on Guardian’s Beta site is edited 24/7. So are its US and Australia editions plus a host of section and topic pages. I built the editor-facing tool that enables this. There’s a write up at the Beta blog about it and our thoughts about editorial strategy. The tool includes drag/drop insertion of Guardian content from anywhere (eg. the tool itself, The Guardian, Google, our internal analytics tool), rapid publication, individual page-view graphs split by referrer, and quick composition/launch of new pages or page-areas.

It’s Functional

May 13, 2013


Just completed Functional Programming Principles in Scala on Coursera. Martin Odersky is impressive, as are the ideas behind his language. Favourite moment: all primes as a lazy evaluated infinite recursive stream, via the the Sieve of Eratosthenes. To iterate is human, to recurse divine… etc. Also liked Coursera a lot. Combine the coursework with a meetup with other participants, and you get something very close to the experience of university study. Recommended.

Through the Roof

February 18, 2013


From a journalism.co.uk article about Metro:

“It’s very early days,” Walters said, and one of the key challenges is making swipe discoverable “as it’s not something people are used to using on a website”. But when people do swipe, and about 10 per cent of the base is using it, their consumption is “through the roof”. “They tend to consume between 10 and 20 pages per visit – which is staggering for a website. As we make that swipe functionality more visible and more obvious to users, we will start to drive up our overall consumption across the product dramatically.”

Read the full article at journalism.co.uk

SiteApps vs WebApps

December 23, 2012


There’s an emerging class of website that tries to behave as much as possible like an app – to the extent that a device’s capabilities enable it to. I think the label “siteapp” suits such websites. They’re sites that transform themselves into apps – if possible.

The new Metro site feasibly falls under that label. Its app-like user experience on certain touch devices is an extension of it’s principal role – as a website. If the user’s device offers the necessary capabilities, it abandons the usual request/response page paradigm and becomes an app (i.e. it loads new “pages” via Ajax, updating the URL in the address bar as you navigate, all the while retaining a single page execution context).

This idea isn’t new. It’s just Progressive Enhancement taken to its conclusion. Yet it maybe warrants its own label, if only to differentiate it from what’s more widely understood by the term “webapp”.

Even though the user on a fully featured mobile might not perceive a difference between the two, a webbapp (such as the FT‘s) is conceived as a full-blown substitute for a native app; it comes from the other end of a spectrum. Yet you wouldn’t demand that a webapp honours canonical URLs; that’s a website’s job. A page on ft.com isn’t a page on app.ft.com, or vice versa.

Whereas you absolutely should expect a siteapp to honour all URLs on all possible devices. Because before anything else, it is the website.

The distinction shouldn’t need to survive our eventual realisation that the term “website” is sufficient to cover anything that can be built with available web technologies. The whole HTML5 campaign is, of course, the huge leap towards that. In the meantime, let’s keep inventing bedazzling jargon for the same thing – the web. Just to show off its many faces.

Metro : Swipe & Responsive site

December 5, 2012


I built the front-end architecture for the new Metro site. It’s the first newspaper site that allows its readers to swipe through an edition of articles. On iPhone, iPad, and other supported devices, left/right touch gestures pull in articles from the current section context. On the desktop, the left/right keyboard keys do the same. The idea is to provide both an appealing newspaper-like reading experience and to significantly boost pages-per-visit. Articles have a single URL across all devices, which is also great for SEO. It has achieved this by being the first national UK newspaper site to embrace responsive design, as well as responsive content techniques: all image sizes, certain elements such as sidebars, and ads slots are sized or loaded conditionally according to device viewport width. The new site has delivered a significant and sustained increase to pages-per-visit and mobile traffic.

Responsive Content

October 30, 2012


TheNextWeb picked up on my Responsive Content plugin. It helps serve different content payloads to different size devices, and tackles one of the negative performance implications of pure CSS responsive design, i.e. that unnecessary page elements and unnecessarily large images get sent to mobile devices, only to then be hidden or downsized in the mobile layout. See an example in use.

Metro Blogs : Swipe Experiment

October 28, 2012


The blogs site for Metro newspaper was an opportunity to try out a front-end architecture for swipe navigation through an “edition” of articles. I preload articles – sized according to the user’s device – on either side of the visible article, and enable touch-screen gestures to pull the next/previous article into view.

On a desktop computer, use the left/right keyboard keys instead to initiate a swipe.