The number of views for The Eye shot up from 351 views per day on Nov. 3 to 1,884 views on Nov. 4. In just two days, we reached 29 different countries. Our secret: a complete redesign.
Five years ago, The Eye decided to adapt to the increasing dependence on technology by switching from a print newspaper to an online publication. But as time passed, the staff realized that simply publishing online would not be sufficient. The site needed to be interactive, easy to use, and visually appealing – features the original Eye website lacked.
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, a revamped Eye website seemed to be a far-fetched goal. The staff had generated a list of possible new designs and ideas, but as the year came to an end, the ideas were pushed aside.
However, as the new 2014-2015 school year began, a new group of 32 students in the journalism class, as well as a new journalism teacher, Robin Worley, started fresh and ready to take action. Working as a team, we set out to establish a redesigned site.
The first step of the process was purely research. The staff spent several weeks looking at other online news sites such as CNN, Vice, New York Times, and even BuzzFeed, to compile a list of website design features we liked. After everyone created and submitted their list, our Website Manager and Design Editor, Emma Gammons, condensed the hundreds of features into one list that included only the most popular.
This led to the next stage of the process – searching for the perfect template to provide a foundation for the site.
The first template we found had everything we wanted: crisp lines with a clean, modern look, a very image heavy front page, a layout that was busy but not too cluttered, and a large carousel for top stories. The staff took a vote against two other possible templates and came to a unanimous decision.
Unfortunately, the template crashed our site, and it was once again back to the drawing board. A month of problem solving and headaches followed, as we transitioned our old content to the new site, resolved tech glitches and customized our site to meet our needs.
“There were hundreds of little details that you don’t think about until they become a problem,” Worley said. She spent several weekends overcoming the technical glitches that arose from the transfer to a new website and hosting company.
However, even after the new template was uploaded, there were still more setbacks. Staff members needed to update their profiles, reupload their stories, fix broken photo links, all while simultaneously working on their current stories.
“Though a lot of hard work went into creating it, it was all worth it to see it published. This new site is like my newborn baby, I want to show it off to everyone I meet!” Gammons said.
It was hard work, but the anticipation and excitement helped us pummel through the stress.
Because of this tenacity, we were able to focus on increasing our use of social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook. This percentage is even higher for the SAS community, so establishing a Social Media Team for The Eye was imperative.
On Halloween night, exactly 60 days after beginning the process, the revamped SAS Eye went live. Our Video Editor, Chris Khoo, created a promo video which we shared on the following Monday’s Morning Show. That’s when the we started to get real traffic.
“Seeing the site up for the first time was so new, fresh, and exciting,” Photo Editor Sid Iyer-Sequeira said. “This is a great first step for our newspaper, because it’s revolutionary for The Eye as well as news at SAS. I’m really proud of this new direction we are taking – it represents us as a class and as a community.”
The Eye has expanded on all levels. Now our stories cover more than just SAS news. Staff members have covered the Hong Kong protests, the impact of Ebola on Interim Semester, potential video game scholarships, haze in Singapore, and even ISIS. SAS Eye journalists are now going out of their way to take global news and make it relevant to the student population.
As co-Editors-in-Chief, we couldn’t be more proud of the team. Seeing the old site transform to the new layout is something we have been looking forward to since we were sophomore reporters for The Eye last year. We eagerly await even more good news for The Eye, as this is just the beginning of our story.
Story by Jenna Nichols and Jeane Khang