With more of its listeners turning to the web for news and entertainment, National Public Radio (NPR) aimed to expand its online offering by re-envisioning its digital presence from the ground up. Central to this effort was the development of a custom web content management (WCM) system. Within just four months, Siteworx applied expertise in WCM, agile design and process tools and more to meet NPR’s goals.
Shortly thereafter, NPR again engaged Siteworx to bolster its digital asset management (DAM) capabilities. This time, NPR needed to migrate 40 years of transcripts and audio files from a flagging legacy system to a digital online archive. Siteworx helped develop and implement a new platform for the migration along with custom search experiences to serve NPR’s diverse and exacting group of internal and external clients.
As one of the leading media outlets in the country, National Public Radio (NPR) is a well-respected brand operating in a highly competitive medium.
While NPR audiences remain strong, overall radio audiences are in decline with more and more listeners turning to the web for news and entertainment. With these trends in mind, NPR has made a significant investment in the web with the key goal of retaining (even growing) share by repurposing radio content for the web. This online initiative had four major components: design, content management system (CMS), web development, application programming interface (API) development and mobile.
NPR had begun the design process prior to engaging Siteworx, but found there was more to do, especially in regards to the agile methodology that was being adopted for the project. With a constricted launch timeline–just four months–Siteworx was able to provide a dedicated team with diverse, highly-specialized design and development talents to assist NPR in meeting their aggressive goals.
While NPR wanted to re-fresh their design, they also wanted to improve navigation and “findability,” particularly by highlighting NPR’s extensive audio assets, as well as its video and flash presentations. Critical to the redesign was finding a solution that would make NPR’s audio content web-friendly, especially through search. This would make on-air references to web content much more seamless and user-friendly.
Another desire of NPR’s was to optimize the production website’s back-end source code and bring it in-line with the Model View Controller (MVC) software pattern, an architectural pattern used in software engineering. Not only did this help with creating more reusable code, but it also reduced the time it takes for developers to understand and become productive on the NPR codebase. Siteworx team members worked with NPR architects to make this happen in lock-step with the other development efforts.
Front-End Development TeamSiteworx has a proven track record of standards-based XHTML and CSS development for performance, compliance, and SEO purposes. Because this project followed an agile methodology, changes were constantly being made and required continual updates of front-end code, which in turn required continuous sample testing across browsers. Due to these constant changes in front-end code, there was a greater risk to losing browser compatibility. To mitigate these aforementioned risks, NPR relied heavily on Siteworx to proactively manage browser compatibility issues.
NPR employed Siteworx’ traditional quality assurance (QA) resources as well as development QA resources. The development resources created a number of unit tests, especially around database changes, as well as implementing the Selenium web application testing system for automated browser testing.
CMS DevelopmentDue to Siteworx’ extensive experience with commercial, open source, and custom CMS products, Siteworx helped NPR redevelop its proprietary CMS. It was to be a hybrid PHP/Java product utilizing jQuery for AJAX enablement of rich interfaces for content managers. Following agile methodologies, Siteworx paired a member of the CMS development team with a member of the user experience team. Through this collaboration, the pair accomplished a tremendous amount of work in a few months. Furthermore, the collaboration allowed for the addition of new features that users had been requesting for years.
NPR also looked to maintain blog content with their in-house proprietary CMS. Without this enhancement, NPR would have been extremely limited in how blog postings could be displayed throughout their website. In order to resolve this issue, Siteworx helped create a layer that allows interaction between NPR’s CMS and their third party blog software.
Agile Process, Tools and Support
NPR was also interested in improving their development and issue management processes through the use of the latest web-based development tools. This need for improvement led NPR to the Atlassian product suite, which, in turn, led them to Siteworx as an implementation partner.
Siteworx provided consultants experienced in the Atlassian tool suite who could help NPR with agile development, deployment, and issue tracking. Prior to the engagement, the NPR development team used CVS, an open source version control system for their development and, while it worked, it involved a number of challenges. Siteworx recommended that NPR migrate to Subversion as a VCS and use it in tandem with the Atlassian tools (with which it is integrated). NPR saw this recommendation as superior and utilized Siteworx expertise in making the transition. The transition was such a success that Subversion is now used by non-developers to track design artifacts and versions. Siteworx also implemented Atlassian’s Fisheye (an open source code repository) and Crucible (a peer code review tool), which allowed NPR to abandon pen and paper code reviews.
Digital Asset Management (DAM) Upgrade
Thousands of Rich Media Assets: Archived and Accessible Organization-Wide
NPR’s day-to-day operations generate thousands of audio files and transcripts each year. In 2010, this valuable and ever-increasing archive of rich digital media was hosted within a legacy archival system that was not meeting the organization’s needs. Specifically, the legacy system was very difficult to navigate. With complex interfaces that required various workarounds to find information, the simplest search required a librarian’s involvement. Siteworx was engaged as a consultant to lead the technical and user experience components of the project. Beyond the tactical success achieved, the ultimate benefit has been that NPR librarians can now spend time and resources more efficiently, providing value-added service to their internal clients. Staff can directly access a wealth of content, representing more than 40 years of our nation’s history that was previously only available by working through librarians.
Creating a Public Media APINPR recognized that there was enormous potential to make their content even more relevant to listeners by offering a public application programming interface (API) that would expose their content, free of charge, for publication across the web. Siteworx was instrumental in the design and architecture of the API deployment, which has facilitated the broad distribution of NPR’s content through a variety of media and platforms.
Designing with a Keen Eye for Technology
Because Siteworx designers and front end developers specialize in design for CMS, Siteworx was particularly well suited to work with NPR. The need was clear: bridge the gap between their previously developed designs and the realities that became apparent as those designs were implemented into a highly structured content management system. Siteworx designers, experience architects and front-end developers worked in an iterative fashion with the software development team and content publishers to refine and re-architect the designs to meet NPR’s unique needs.
"Agilifying" from the Inside OutSiteworx has been a long-time partner and advocate of the Atlassian Tool Suite and has developed proprietary interfaces and enhancements to the tools to allow seamless support for agile design and development processes. Working closely with the NPR team, Siteworx helped to re-engineer NPR’s processes from design through development, quality assurance and implementation. With their designers and developers utilizing a unified tool set, NPR has been able to significantly streamline their processes, dramatically improving efficiency and ensuring tighter collaboration and integration from design through execution.