Washington Post Refresh Brings Home Page Load Times To One Second

Washington PostThe Washington Post’s revamped home page, unveiled Wednesday, purports to bring average desktop load time to less than one second – meaning better reader experiences and more ads viewed, since visitors won’t bounce.

The fresh home page completes the Post’s sitewide reboot, which started in the middle of last year with its article pages.

Content also loads faster on mobile devices, which account for 60% of the publisher’s audience. Average site performance across desktop and mobile devices is two and a half seconds, rising to more than three seconds at night when mobile use peaks.

“[Faster mobile load times] allows us to add more units in, because the page weight is lower, and [we can] experiment more frequently with the ads we have,” said the Post’s principal architect, Greg Franczyk.

In revamping its front page, the publisher considered how content and advertising interact with each other. For instance, it designed the layout so different page templates load depending on whether there’s a half-page or 300×250 ad, which gives it more options in accommodating ad units of various sizes.

Publishers that don’t have this system often have to leave lots of empty space in the right rail.

“It’s not about preparing a beautiful design and then jamming in ad spots,”Franczyk said. “We have to think carefully about the ad experience for the advertising and the user.”

These improvements to the user experience also impact ad viewability (though the Post wouldn’t detail how those numbers improved).

Publishers “think of [viewability] as an advertising problem, but it’s actually an experience problem,”Franczyk said. “If the user is not engaged, because of content and experience, they’ll skim past the ads.”

The Washington Post has migrated its entire site to its proprietary publishing platform Arc, which allows for quick experimentation. It intends to add an analytics app to Arc that addresses the consumer experience.

With those analytics, authors will see built-in suggestions, like how to improve engagement if an article performs below average.

Arc is the Post’s corollary to Vox’s Chorus and Gawker Media’s Kinja. Like its peers, the publisher built its own because it couldn’t find an off-the-shelf solution with the right analytics, as tools like Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics are designed for ecommerce.

“There isn’t a media analytics system,” said Franczyk, who used to work in ecommerce, where off-the-shelf tools are common. “Building tools that are catered for media or publishing in general feels like our mission. “

The Washington Post plans to license its technology as a software-as-a-service offering. Four universities are using the Post’s technology, and it’s in active talks with other potential clients.


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