On Wednesday, those of you who read the Register online will notice a significant change. Our website will have a new look and feel, along with some useful new features.

It’s built with the needs of mobile users – phones and tablets – in mind. It will feature a cleaner, streamlined design. It will make it easier to scroll through and move between stories, and encourage readers to explore older or related stories as well.

In the newsroom, we will have more tools available to us to build interesting web-only features into the stories – photos, videos, links, graphics and sound can be woven directly into the structure of stories themselves, giving a richer, more immersive experience for the readers.

To summarize, we can make stories look cooler than ever before.

I’ve been playing around with a test version of the site for a few weeks, and I’m excited about the possibilities as we learn about all the new features built into the system. Even more features will come on line later in the summer as well.

Although it is built with mobile technology in mind, it will deliver equally good results on desktop computers – technology is so good now that the site can determine what kind of device you are using and make changes to make sure it looks as good as possible on your particular screen.

The tech-oriented among you, however, may have a question at this point: Didn’t we just do this?

And the answer is yes.

Just 18 months ago, we rolled out our new site, the one you see today. It featured brighter, more dynamic photos, a story display system that allowed us to keep a constant stream of fresh content rolling across the screen, and a bunch of features that helped us make web-based stories look better. It also worked better on mobile phones than our old website – which was at least five years old and rather static and old-fashioned.

We were really happy with the new site and most of our readers liked it as well.

Why change now? The answer is simple.

Technology changes with blinding speed.

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Just two years ago, about 45 percent of our web traffic came from desk-top computers, like the one you use at home and work. About 42 percent came from mobile phones. It made sense, therefore, to create a desktop-based site that happened to look good on phones.

Today, that equation has flipped on its head, with 54 percent of our traffic coming from phones and just 36 percent of visitors looking on desktops, and the shift is accelerating.

And a lot more of that mobile traffic is coming in from Facebook, Google, and other social media and search engines, meaning readers are entering the website directly into stories that interest them.

That means it now makes sense to create a mobile-phone-based website that just happens to look great on desktops. It also makes sense to create more interesting features within a story even while providing readers more tools to find other stories that might interest them.

We know change takes a little getting used to – it will take us some practice to make the most of all the new features we have at our disposal too.

But we like what we’ve seen and we’re eager to get started using some of the new tools we have at our fingertips.

We’d like to hear what you think of the new site. Feel free to call or email me later this week once you’ve seen the new look (and please don’t forget to give it a look on your mobile phone. I think the logic of the changes will become clear very quickly).

You can reach Sean Scully at 256-2246 or sscully@napanews.com.



Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.