In another illustration of the growing importance of mobile traffic, Disney/ABC Television Group has unveiled new web sites at its owned TV stations that offer a much better experience for users accessing the sites from a variety of different devices.
As part of that effort, the company used responsive design techniques to configure the way the sites look on connected TVs, to desktop and tablets and smart phones. The new sites will also offer more video, easier access to its live Watch ABC streams and a number of new features designed to make it easier to access weather and hyperlocal news.
“We’ve seen a big switch with the number of people using mobile devices,” explained Carla Carpenter, the senior VP of digital media at the ABC Owned Television Station Group, who says that their mobile viewing had “tripled just in the last year. So we wanted to do something to catch that wave and be wherever our consumers are.”
Responsive design techniques greatly improve the way the sites look on even the smaller screens of smartphones. “Responsive design doesn’t just look good on desktop and tablets, it also looks good on smart phones,” she explains.
“But it is a much more complex process,” that took her team around 18 months, Carpenter added later in the interview. “It is difficult to build and difficult to manage.”
The new sites have gone live at: WABC-TV, New York; KABC-TV, Los Angeles; WLS-TV, Chicago; WPVI-TV Philadelphia; KGO-TV, San Francisco; KTRK-TV, Houston; WTVD-TV, Raleigh-Durham; and KFSN-TV, Fresno.
The new sites are 40% larger, Carpenter says. “They are so much bigger and brighter, with more space and room for more information and more video.”
In terms of an improved video experience, the new sites use Verizon’s upLynk to provide HD video without buffering and the sites have been redesigned to highlight the live streaming from Watch ABC.
The websites will also include an improved user interface that makes it easier to find content; a new "Map My News" feature and more of an editorial focus on weather.
As part of the redesign, they did extensive research on the interests of users. That led to an increased focus on hyperlocal news, weather and breaking news.
To make it easier for users to find news in their area and neighborhood, the new “Map My News” shows stories on a map in the various parts of the station’s coverage area. “If you are in Chicago, it will show a bunch of pins and tweets from different parts of the city,” she says. “If you click on one of those, you will get the story.”
The redesign will also help ABC boost revenue by making the sites more appealing to advertisers. The responsive design approach will improve the way ads look on all devices and they are now able to offer more “high impact ad units,” she says.
The sites also add “IAB Rising Stars” templates which will make it possible to create ads for smaller business. “They can give us a few assets and we can create a terrific ad that looks like it came from an ad agency,” she says.
The use of responsive design at the owned station is part of a larger push at Disney/ABC Television Group. It began introducing responsive design elements to such network web sites as DisneyJunior.com, DisneyChannel.com, DisneyXD.com and ABCFamily.com in the fall of 2013.
ABC.com began rolling out its redesign in January 2014. When it completes the transition to responsive design during the fall 2014 TV season, all of the sites will use the approach.