On June 19th, we launched the latest version of MMA Fighting. As Executive Editor Bryan Tucker wrote in his intro post, this is a very exciting milestone for MMA Fighting.
MMA Fighting has had a plethora of changes over the years, but this is our best version yet thanks to the hard work of Vox Media’s incredible design and product teams. It will make the site better on mobile and give us more options on how to present all the breaking news, videos, photos, and more that have made us the industry’s leader.
The relaunch of MMA Fighting represents the third and final milestone in the overall SB Nation refresh that kicked off with the branding changes to SBNation.com on May 1, 2017. This effort helped bring unity to the SB Nation branding across the network everywhere their content appears: on Chorus, across social media, on third party platforms like Apple News and Google Amp, and so on.
Perhaps more quietly, but no less important, this launch marked the culmination of a major effort on the part of the Vox Product Team: the final homepage to move to our new unified version of our Chorus web platform. We called this project Unison.
Nearly three years ago, then VP of Engineering Michael Lovitt wrote in the Unison project brief,
In order to sanely operate our existing business and lay the foundation for future strategic initiatives, we must invest in making Chorus a platform on which media brands can be more efficiently designed, built, launched, maintained, and evolved. The level of effort to release or iterate on a product feature or ad product should not increase with the number of brands running on Chorus. We need to shift the creative focus of our design and engineering teams away from maintaining seven discrete brands — and seven discrete codebases — and toward building systems that enable numerous, highly-individualized brands to be created and operated without enormous human effort.
If we are successful, the Chorus of the future will power many more media brands than it does today. If we can make it easier to launch and operate digital media brands, the rate at which we can iterate on and improve our own brands will increase; we will be in a position to experiment with putting other publishers on Chorus; and we will be able to open up the full suite of Chorus tools to Vox Creative and our advertisers.
We kicked off the planning for Unison in March of 2015 and started design and development in earnest a few months later in June. The project was broken up into three discrete phases:
- Make the format and structure of our content consistent across brands
- Define and build the Chorus Unison product
- Migrate existing brands to Unison — one brand, one page at a time
With the first two phases complete in early 2016, we hit the first public milestone in February of 2016 with the relaunch of Curbed — the first of our brands fully on the new Chorus Unison platform.
As I wrote at the time of the Curbed launch:
We have traditionally done a lot of custom engineering work for each brand that joins Vox Media. Starting with the launch of The Verge in 2011, we've focused on creating brands that are highly individualized, both in terms of visual design and site functionality. Our brands are powered by Chorus’s common set of publishing and community tools, but most of the presentation and user-facing functionality has been custom-built specifically for each brand.
This approach worked when our focus was on improving our individual sites, but has made it hard (read: very inefficient, near impossible) to consistently iterate on our underlying platform. If Racked wanted a new photo gallery feature, for example, our two options were either (1) only make updates for Racked, further deviating it from the rest of our sites or (2) spend a very long time redoing the same work seven times over, each in slightly different ways. This was clearly not sustainable.
With one brand live on Unison, the project entered the third and final phase to migrate our existing brands to Unison — one brand, one page at a time.
Over the last 15 months, we’ve moved voxmedia.com to the unified version of Chorus, launched Recode, migrated the entry pages across all of our brands, and finally moved each of our brands’ homepages to the new framework—including MMA Fighting and all 300+ team sites under the SB Nation umbrella. Nearly 100% of our on-platform traffic across the Vox Media network is now running through Chorus Unison—a major accomplishment years in the making.
The launch of MMA Fighting’s new homepage on the now-unified Chorus marks the final cap on the Unison project; it’s the last core page across each of our brands to be migrated to the Unison framework. It represents the end of a major, company-wide effort to unify our products, setting us up to enter a new and exciting chapter focused on building and iterating on experiences our audiences love in an efficient and scalable way.
We couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved and are eager to bring new and exciting experiences to our audiences—experiences that the hard work over the past three years has made possible.