Aboutthe Redesign

Responsive header

Hey, is That Responsive Web Design?


Posted: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013

Why yes, yes it is responsive web design.

As part of a push to mobile-first and digital-first journalism, The Red Line Project has redesigned using Bootstrap 2, a free, open-source front-end publishing platform. This redesign makes the site functional and look great on any device, from a desktop to a mobile phone.

If you're on a desktop or laptop, just grab the lower right corner of your browser and drag it to the left. Watch this page redesign itself to fit the width of the browser. That's responsive.

The Red Line Project is among the first student publications in the nation to use responsive web design, and only a handful of national publications have them, though many are in the works. This is part of our effort at DePaul University's College of Communication journalism department to stay on the cutting edge of media technologies.

Why redesign? The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute found that between 2012 and 2013 the number of respondents to a survey used both a tablet and a smartphone to get the news had more than doubled. While checking daily analytics, we found this to be true with The Red Line Project as well.

The redesign is just part of the new features and changes we made to the site:

  • Mobile text alerts: With more of our readers on mobile, it makes sense to offer mobile text breaking news alerts. You can sign up and opt-out of our mobile alerts here. The alerts will cover breaking news such as weather, public safety issues, and more. You can opt out of the alerts at any time, and we will not share your information with outside parties or push advertising to you through mobile.

  • Social media: Social media has been at the core of our site since it launched in January 2011. But we've made it better. We've rebranded our social media with a new logo and a more consistent description of what our students are doing with the site. We have added an Instagram account and have given a permanent home to our Tumblr site, The Chicago Stumbler, on the right rail of the page. We'll continue to post content -- including some breaking news -- to our Twitter, Rebel Mouse, Storify and YouTube pages, and our Facebook comments section will appear at the bottom of every story page.

  • Searchable maps: Starting with our Chicago gun violence package last winter, we've been using data analysis to build searchable maps of crime, school closings and other issues. We'll be doing more of this as geolocation and mapping a crucial to mobile journalism and our readers. Our newest map: Crimes along CTA train routes.

  • Mobile-friendly multimedia: Our slideshows are now done in HTML5, which lets Apple iOS users see and hear our audio slideshows. We'll continue to post short, mobile-friendly news videos to our YouTube channel.

We have many people to thank for helping us with our mobile redesign: Damon Kiesow of the Boston Globe and Regina McCombs of Minnesota Public Radio, both Poynter faculty who have provided many ideas and support for this project since it launched. Derek Eder has taught us how to use Google Fusion tables to build searchable maps that work well with mobile. Kevin Brown has helped us through many technical glitches, web development and design challenges. And the Chicago Tribune's Andy Boyle and NPR's Brian Boyer motivated us to keep learning new things.

We also drew motivation from the Knight Digital Media Center (KDMC) mobile seminar at the Chicago Community Trust in spring 2013. Amy Gahran and Will Sullivan provided tips, tools and sage advice that steered us in the right direction. 

Our students also had a hand in the redesign. Teaching assistant Jakub Rudnik, students Scott Sutton and Andrew Rodriguez, and recent DePaul alums Ali Trumbull and Clayton Guse, contributed to testing and feedback.

We hope you enjoy all of the changes to the site, and we encourage your input. And remember that one thing hasn't changed with The Red Line Project: our dedication to journalism and getting it right. -- Mike Reilley, faculty adviser, The Red Line Project

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