News 

New Look Websites for Express & Star and Shropshire Star Go Live

MNA Digital, the online arm of the Midland News Association (MNA), publisher of the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, has launched the new sites for its daily titles.

The two new sites are the first in the UK to be built and powered by the Washington Post's Arc Publishing platform.

The user experience for Expressandstar.com and Shropshirestar.com has been improved following intensive design projects including public testing.

The team behind the new websites have been working on development for more than a year. They believe the designs will make it easier for users to navigate their way around.

By providing defined areas for key content, including local news and sport, as well as giving prominent commercial slots, the designers believe the site has less clutter, making it easier to for people to navigate around and find the content they are looking for.

The team have also focused on making the sites more mobile friendly to benefit the 62 per cent of MNA web users who visit using a handheld device.

Andy Hill, managing director of MNA Digital, said: "We are really pleased with the cleaner design for the Expressandstar.com and Shropshirestar.com.

“I would like to congratulate my team for their work, as well as colleagues in editorial and across the business, who have completed such a significant piece of work.

“The navigation of the sites was an important part of the project that received a lot of attention. The objective was to simplify the navigation and make it easier for our readers to find the content that they are interested in.

"During the project, we conducted extensive user research, which showed that our sites were cluttered and confusing to navigate meaning that it could be hard for a reader to find the content they are searching for.

"Offering our readers too much choice through the navigation was counter-productive. The new navigation is simple to understand and works well on a mobile as it is easy to use on a small screen.

"This is important because over 60% of our users access our websites using their mobile phones."

The MNA is the first UK publisher to use the technology used by the Washington Post. The websites are fed by content directly from Knowledge, the MNA’s content management system (CMS), which is produced by sister company Press Computer Systems.

The CMS allows senior print reporters to upload content straight to the websites using Knowledge, giving them a direct route to publish online.

This is the first time print journalists at the MNA have been able to publish their work onto the site, bringing the digital and print teams closer together.

Mike Woods, head of digital editorial content for the MNA, said: “It’s been a huge undertaking to relaunch our websites at the same time as we overhaul the workflow in the newsroom to take a more digital-first approach to publishing.

“The Washington Post’s software allows us to have far greater editorial control over the look and feel of our websites than was previously possible, and we’re delighted with the end result.”

Following the launch of the new MNA websites, the Wolverhampton-based MNA Digital team plan to roll out the designs to their sister Claverley titles the Jersey Evening Post and the Guernsey Press.