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May 13, 2014, 2:30 p.m.
LINK: speakerdeck.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 13, 2014

Web publishers face a quandary in 2014: User expectations for how quickly a website will load are getting faster and faster. But web pages keep getting fatter and fatter, adding custom fonts, bigger art, more video, and more complex JavaScript into the mix. Our 3G reality often falls short of our broadband dreams.

guardian_logoPatrick Hamman at The Guardian gave an interesting talk last week at the FrontTrends conference in Warsaw about how they’re trying to make theguardian.com load a lot faster in its new, responsive design, and there are a lot of ideas in here ready to be stolen by other news site developers. One remarkable fact: A Guardian audience survey found that, of 17 key product drivers, the speed of the site ranked No. 2, behind only whether content was easy to find or not.

A couple of the main ideas:

The order in which a page’s assets load is critical to user perception. Load the most important parts (for a news article, the headline and text) first and load everything else (related stories, ads, comments, bottom nav, etc.) later. Let your user get started with the task she wants to complete right away. (He even suggests inlining CSS in some cases, long considered a little déclassé in modern web circles.) There’s plenty of good stuff about progressive enhancement and lazy loading if you want to learn more.

Determine what an acceptable load time is — set your time budget, in other words — and test, improve, and iterate your way until you hit that goal. I loved this screenshot of a metrics email bragging that the new Guardian site was “142% faster than NY Times”:

guardian-pageload-nytimes

More about the Guardian redesign, including code, on GitHub.

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How much news makes it into people’s Facebook feeds? Our experiment suggests not much
Half the people in our survey saw no news at all in the first 10 posts in their feeds — even using an extremely generous definition of “news” that counted everything from celebrity gossip to sports scores to history-based explainers, across all mediums.
TV goes digital, digital goes TV
“Television reaches this critical stage with a lot of experience and lessons that have been learned by others, with heavy pockets, and two clear strengths: a very strong footprint on social networks, both from its brands and its individual talents, and a unique sensitivity for video storytelling that is higher than that of all its competitors.”
The editorial meeting of the future
“In the future, we’ll instead organize the editorial meeting around this all-important question: “What can we help the public understand or do today?” We won’t start with our ideas — we’ll start with the information gaps the public demonstrates they have, and focus our efforts squarely on filling those gaps.”