Responsive design: Opportunities and challenges for news sites

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November 9, 2012 by newsgetting

All four news outlets featured in this article – the Guardian, the BBC, Midland News Association and – have all in the past few months unveiled their latest steps in responsive design. Last month the Guardian lifted the curtain on its “work-in-progress” responsive beta site, Time announced its redesign for the magazine’s website and BBC News started rolling out as default its responsive site onto mobile phones. And in the same month the Midland News Association title the Express & Star launched its responsive site, following in the footsteps of the Shropshire Star which made the same move in August. The decision to pursue a responsive design was greatly fuelled by the increasing use of mobile devices by users to access news content, and the desire on the part of news outlets to improve the mobile experience when viewing content on a browser. When it comes to reach, news outlets keen to target audiences across platforms are encouraged to consider the responsive route. “I think anybody who’s trying to reach a large audience on many different devices, responsive design is something they ought to be thinking about,” Chris Russell, head of product for news at BBC Future Media told And over in the US was experiencing the same diversity when it came to the platforms content was being accessed from. “Our users are coming to us not just on desktops anymore, they’re coming to us on the iPad, they’re coming to us on their Android phones, and we want to be where the users are,” managing editor Cathy Sharick said. “So it’s gone from much more than just a desktop redesign to something that we had to think about from the different sizes across all platforms.” was also driven by the size of its social audience, she added. “One of the big things for us too is that we have a huge social following, we have close to 4 million subscribers on Twitter, almost 2 million on Google+ and we feel that the responsive redesign is allowing them to have a much much better experience when they click on these links from social, so that was another big reason why we did the redesign.” The regional news sites within Midland News Association have witnessed a similar growth in mobile access, with an increase from around 11 and 12 per cent of users accessing content via mobile devices in the first quarter of 2011, to around 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.
By Rachel McAthy (

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