In the infancy of the Internet, people would dial out to the web or connect to AOL, chat with friends or look up information, then shut down and walk away from a bulky desktop computer kept in a spare room.
Now, there is no "walking away." The Internet is always there, it's always on and there's always something new. It's evolving, and so is timesleader.com.
When we last redesigned timesleader.com, we added social networking features, some neat widgets and made some minor design tweaks.
But the core of the site remained the same. The changes were add-ons, not part of the site as a whole.
And the experience – both for end users and for reporters who post news to the site – could have been better.
Almost immediately after the old site was launched, we began looking at concepts to incorporate into the next-generation Times Leader website.
Social media would need to be intimately tied in. Videos and photographs would need to be part and parcel of the framework of the site.
Our reporters should be able to control how a story or even the entire website looked with the click of a button.
On mobile devices, the site should automatically format itself to fit the device it was being viewed on.
Every component should be integrated, rather than tacked on.
Users should be able to interact in multiple ways and be able to have personas and profiles on the site if they chose to.
We should be able to leverage new technologies and platforms as they became available.
In essence, we needed to have the same mutability as the Internet itself. The site needed to be part of the cloud.
To that end, we began a project to upgrade our web infrastructure. It's touched literally every corner of our news organization.
We recently began rolling out these upgrades to our weekly publications and have been pleased with the results – the concept was sound.
Yesterday we launched the redesigned timesleader.com on our new web platform. We're taking small steps first – the goal was to launch with the same feature set we currently had, and then roll out new features from there. As with any construction process, there's bound to be some dust.
But moving forward, you'll notice changes but not in access; the website will remain free to all users.
But you'll begin seeing content presented in a different, more interactive way that's more suitable to the story.
Video and photos will be handled differently, and so will social media.
Eventually, users will be able to participate in an online community that far exceeds simple commenting systems.
It might take some time for us to come to grips with these new capabilities, but once we do, our online audience will enjoy a user experience second to none.