A WebPageTest waterfall graph from testing www.vox.com
Like a lot of the web development community, Vox Product has been increasing its focus on the front end performance of our sites. In order to improve, we must first quantify what "front end performance" means to us, and have a repeatable way to measure it so that we can tell if we are really improving or not.
While attending Velocity NYC last October, WebPageTest.org was repeatedly brought up as a the best way to start measuring front end performance. Their Speed Index metric was exactly what we were looking for - a number to represent how fast a user feels like a page is loading.
Jonathan Klein gave a talk titled DIY Synthetic - Private WebPageTest Magic, which convinced me that a private Web Page Test instance was what we needed. Our needs are probably a little different than most, because we wanted to run tests against the home and article pages for all of our networks (at the time, Polygon, SB Nation and Verge) for both desktop and mobile sizes. Testing all these variations with multiple runs to ensure accuracy would easily put us over the public API limits, so we started looking into setting up our own instance.
I'll admit it: this harsh DC winter definitely influenced my decision to go sunny Miami; the promise of 80-degree weather was hard to ignore. That, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend four days immersed in storytelling with women in journalism and tech at the Chicas Poderosas conference, held on April 18th-20th at the Univision office and on the campus of the University of Miami.
Chicas Poderosas is an initiative started last year by ICFJ fellow Mariana Santos who wanted to create a community of Latin women journalists and connect them with people working in technology. By pairing enthusiastic Latina professionals with mentors, Mariana has used the formula that has worked well for many top media companies which is "the magic" that can happen when editorial and product teams work together closely.
Chicas poderosas literally translates to powerful women - the mantra of this organization
As a female designer at Vox Media, I was invited to come as a mentor alongside others from NYTimes, OpenNews, BBC and The Guardian to name a few. All these mentors hold various roles in the technology field, working as designers, project managers, developers and more. There were around 100 attendees participating who had traveled from various countries in Central and South America, making for a very diverse audience. Our time over the four days was split - when we weren't listening to guest speakers, we took part in a hackathon.
Written by Jon Douglas, Support Manager, April 25, 2014
From left to right - Jake Lear, Tyson Whiting, Jon Douglas
Two weeks ago, Jake Lear, Tyson Whiting and I were invited to represent the technology field at Ronald McNair Elementary career day in Montgomery County, Maryland. We spoke to fifth graders about our careers and the skills it takes to perform our jobs.
It was a familiar scene as we stepped through the double doors and made our way toward the office. Waves of nostalgia came rushing back -- bells rang at designated times, kids formed lines and marched like soldiers, walls were plastered with artwork. Yes, we had definitely been here before. Team Polygon was back at elementary school, but this time around, we were the teachers.
We tailored our presentation to be fun, interactive and informative. After brief introductions with details about our background and education, we transitioned into the specifics of our individual roles and emphasized that it takes each of us working together to produce a quality product. As we explained to the kids all three phases of our workflow - Design, Coding, and Quality Assurance - they were genuinely interested in what we had to say. We capped off our talk by creating a mini web page with input from the students. Bugs were purposely introduced and the fifth graders eagerly jumped at the chance to call out what was wrong and needed to be changed. The three of us had a blast selling each mistake before we fixed it up.
For 10-and 11-year-olds, these kids were pretty tech savvy. All use the internet frequently and many are familiar with current video games and consoles, including several that spoke up to offer their expertise on Minecraft and what exactly a pixel is. One girl has already committed to learning how to code and others expressed an interest in drawing and one day becoming designers. It was refreshing to see these students excited about their futures.
Written by Ted Irvine, Design Director, April 2, 2014
I had the honor of being one of the judges for the Society of News Design's 2013 World's Best-Designed at SND 35. This is the fourth year that the digital portion of this competition has existed and the 35th anniversary of the print portion. This year, the judges convened in Indianapolis. For me, it was a great opportunity to meet new people within our industry that work on other publications and talk about the state of design on both the web and in print.
Chiqui Esteban from The Boston Globe, Kaitlin Yarnall from National Geographic and I had the task of judging the World’s Best portion of the awards. For over two days, we outlined what we were looking for, pored over entries, scoured the web for things that should have been entered and had healthy debates about defines design and who should win this prestigious award. Our judges’ statement below suggests the sort of prism we were looking through as we reviewed the entires.
Back in December, Ryan Gantz wrote an article on the Vox Product Blog about the sheer volume of incredible media being produced by our editorial staffs and video teams. He posed a great question: When am I going to find the time to read all this?
This past weekend, the Society for News Design held an event called "SND Prototypes: The story experience" at the Ball State University Indianapolis Center. A sizable group of talented designers, developers and product thinkers arrived in Indy with great ambition: designing solutions for real-life problems that exist in online journalism and defining new story forms.
You may be asking, "What took so long? Why didn't Vox Product use its own platform to write blog posts?" If so, you've got a bright future as an investigative journalist. The truth is, we just needed to shut up and ship it.
How do you speak to a group of extremely passionate people? What kind of design would speak to them? When Joshua Topolsky approached us about creating three different layouts in the style of three mobile UI’s we were initially torn. Something about mimicking the UI of phones didn’t feel original. But more importantly, it presented a problem of presentation. There was an inherent a UX problem to solve: do you offer presentation options or do you trick the user? We decided to troll.
Written by Ryan Gantz, Director of User Experience, December 6, 2013
One great thing about working at a company built on Lifestyle Brands With Passionate Audiences is that many of us enjoy a huge overlap between our job and our hobbies. We get our work done, but there’s a (largely unspoken) understanding that when Apple events or World Series games or E3 announcements come around, we can and should take time to enjoy them. No doubt World Cup draw coverage has been up on the projector in the DC office common area today, folks plunked down on the couch.
We love this stuff, and it’s always a great chance to see our editorial & video teams in action, and to watch closely as tools like SBN Live and Syllabus get real-world use.
Written by dz, Software Engineer, November 25, 2013
The Polygon PlayStation 4 Review and Xbox One Review involved an unprecedented level of coordination between the editorial and product teams at Vox Media. The goal was to create a pair of extremely high touch features to highlight the talents of our writers and video team, while pushing the envelope on longform design.
There were a lot of lessons learned, but the final results speak for themselves.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.