These are some representative comments from readers of The Aquila Report after Five More Talents redesigned the site in June 2012:
“I like the new format, cleaner, more up to date in appearance.”
“I love the new look. It is very distinctive on my Kindle Fire and it works on my iPhone (the old sight was odd to navigate on my iPhone). Don’t change a thing.”
“Delightful to read on my iPad.”
Founded in 2008, The Aquila Report (TAR) is an online publication which syndicates news and commentary from and about conservative, orthodox evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches. Guided by co-founders Don Clements (Editor-in-Chief) and Dominic Aquila (News Editor), The Aquila Report has experienced considerable growth since 2008. Today, The Aquila Report has 10,000s of Facebook fans, and 100,000s of unique visitors each month. By any measure of success, The Aquila Report is a successful web publication.
Reasons for Success
First, TAR’s editorial team has committed themselves to an aggressive publishing schedule since the inception of theaquilareport.com in 2008. Don and Dominic post several new articles each day on theaquilareport.com, and promote them via social media and a weekly email newsletter. TAR’s mission “to diligently seek, find and publish news and commentary” obligates them to post new articles often. Because TAR’s editors have been able to do this consistently day-in and day-out for more than four years, they have been able to build rapport, earn trust, and gain traction with their readership. Great content delivered daily is at the heart of TAR’s success.
But by the end of 2011, TAR’s success was causing web server problems. Every Wednesday, Don and Dominic would faithfully email their newsletter of the week’s top 10 articles to their growing list of subscribers. As the number of email subscribers grew, so did the number of people who clicked on the links in the emails to read the top 10 articles. Soon, so many people were clicking on links from the email newsletter that the web server couldn’t handle all the requests at once. As a result, the web server kept going down, and TAR’s loyal readers weren’t able to read the latest news and commentary.
On January 31, 2012, TAR appointed Douglas Vos as President and Publisher of The Aquila Report. To solve the web server problem, Doug leveraged his extensive experience as an IT systems engineer to diagnose its root causes and create an upgrade plan. In the process, Doug enlisted the help of the Five More Talents team to upgrade the design and migrate the site to a new content management system.
Early in the redesign process we asked the question: “How can we improve visitor engagement?” For the Aquila Report, the strategy was easy to identify: Make the content as readable as possible for as many people as possible.
To improve the reading experience, we did a number of things:
- Selected attractive, distinctive, readable fonts for headlines and body text
- Made sure that the width of the content area is not too wide, but narrow enough for easy reading without eyestrain
- Added subtitles to article headlines; this can help readers find what interests them more easily as they scan the homepage
- Implemented a cutting-edge responsive design
What is Responsive Design?
Responsive design needs a bit more explanation. With mobile and tablet devices becoming as common as PCs and laptops, we are using responsive design techniques for almost every project now. Simply put, responsive design is a way to provide an optimal user experience to people visiting your website, no matter what kind of web device they are using: desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, iPad, iPhone, or Android.
New Content Management System
Last but not least, we did some “behind-the-scenes” work on the Aquila Report, as well. From 2008 to 2011, The Aquila Report ran on Joomla. Joomla is one of the top three open source content management systems, and it works well for many sites. But we prefer WordPress whenever possible. Plus, we figured that if WordPress is good enough for the New York Times, Forbes, and Reuters, it is probably good enough for The Aquila Report, too!
Migrating several thousand articles from Joomla to WordPress wasn’t easy. It took a lot of trial-and-error using hidden test sites. But with patience, elbow grease, and some custom programming, we were able to engineer a smooth migration process. We even implemented HTTP 301 redirects to ensure that the Aquila Report didn’t lose the huge long tail of articles bringing traffic to the site.