Behind the scenes of the KLRU Redesign

by Alicia Adams, Station Products & Innovation Coordinator 

Revamping a website to be more innovative, while meeting audience needs is no easy task. The KLRU-Austin web team is tackling this challenge with their new redesign. Libby Peterek, Director of Web Services and PBS Digital Advisory Council Member, shared the KLRU process with PBS Digital.    

As far as digital strategy, what is the strategy behind
KLRU’s website?

Our website exists to engage, inform, and encourage support. It should be a window into all that KLRU does on TV, online, and in the community. Aside from the content we provide, I want our website to be effective, efficient, and satisfying, whether our viewers know exactly what they want or are just browsing.

KLRU decided to undergo the website redesign in phases instead of doing a complete overhaul. What was the thinking behind the phased-roll out?

We are always looking to see how to improve our users’ experience – specifically making sure they can quickly get to the information they need and their experience is pleasant throughout.  

We decided to phase the development and rollout for several reasons:

  • We wanted to introduce new functionality quickly, gather feedback, and then iterate.
  • We chose to “keep it simple” to start, so as not to jar our user's experience too greatly.
  • With a small team and a large workload, prioritizing and chunking becomes paramount to doing more with less.

First Phase - Our emphasis was on leveraging our schedule and blog to let users watch COVE content in our online schedule, promote programming, recommend programming based on genre, promote events, and integrate social sharing with our programs. 

Second Phase- In March, we will be rolling out a responsive version of the site, showing off the pledge and schedule integration, and launching our new education portal.

Third Phase- In May, we will be taking a hard look at our navigation, relaunching our daily schedule and homepage, and adding membership groups to genres in the schedule.

Content discovery has been a main goal for us for quite some time and all of the pieces came into place for us to incorporate online video into our site, to put it into context. We have had access to the COVE API for some time, but the recent additions of closed captioning and mobile viewing made it the perfect opportunity to put it into place.

We had research that confirmed our idea that the schedule was the right spot to innovate and so we chose to start there. Aside from its popularity, it’s the area that affects every department in our station. We have been pulling Protrack data into our schedule for years, but moving our site to Wordpress was imperative to utilizing feeds and automation functionality to make these innovations sustainable.

On top of all of these notions, we also realized that when rolling out large functionality enhancements that it’s best for the user experience to present and test a few variables at a time instead of changing everything at once. We have a very engaged audience and we knew if we got something wrong, they would tell us. It made sense to give them a little at a time. Let them get used to it, see what’s available, and respond. That’s the reason we tabled the daily schedule for a couple months; it will have the greatest impact on the way our viewers are currently conducting their information finding. We wanted to be sure our programs and episodes were meeting their needs first.

Although we launched a site without every piece polished, we did try to launch the program, episode, and blog portions as close to perfect as possible. We incorporated recommended systems, social sharing, and opportunities to support complete with donation forms on pledge programs. It’s been hectic, but incredibly fun and rewarding.

What was the most difficult part of integrating Cove with the schedule?

I spoke with Jesse Overright, KLRU’s Web Developer, about this question. We both agreed that relying on COVE metadata (entered throughout the system) brought a large challenge. There’s a lot of room for error, perspective, and interpretation concerning NOLA codes, genres, and tags.

The second largest hurdle involved learning the way COVE thought about content (i.e., episodes, clips, and previews) and mediating that with the way Protrack thinks about episodes and programs AND the way our audience interacts with our content. Making those connections allowed us to pull in data through the COVE API and reorganized it based on our needs.
Any advice for stations looking to integrate their schedule with COVE, pledge donations, and social sharing?

I think that for every station it’s different. You need to look at your content, analytics, workload, and technological infrastructure and build a strategy and identify some goals that work for you.

Through very informal polling, it does seem that the bread and butter for most PBS stations is the schedule. It’s been our #1 destination during my six years in the system. We knew we needed to better leverage it and the most important part was not the technology but deciding just what else fit with the “schedule experience” and then prioritizing those additions. That allowed us to build our development timeline.
From a technical perspective, the first step is building a strong and extensible foundation from which to innovate. It will allow you to maximize your reach with a small team. We pull feeds and automate as much as possible, but that requires good taxonomies, metadata, and a lot of testing…at times in a live environment.

I feel we need to look at all of the tools we use with regard to how they connect with each other as well as the mental models and usage patterns of our users. Taking a step back to see where we’ve come from, where we are now, and making accommodations for future innovations is incredibly important...and exciting. This is where we get to hedge some bets. The mobile optimization, closed-captioning, and API availability made COVE ready for integration. Although our primary online donation infrastructure rests on Blackbaud, we have been using Kimbia for pledge for years. Their widgetized donation form gives us the flexibility to embed it easily across the site and incorporate it into our Wordpress backend. We have been embedding Facebook commenting and Open Graph images with other Wordpress sites we’ve built and so we rolled that functionality back into the schedule and the blog.
Make a plan, watch and wait, and then act.

The Website has only been live for a few weeks, but KLRU has received positive feedback from viewers and their Community Advisory Board on the updated infrastructure and video options. If you have your own questions you would like to ask the KLRU Web team or comments to share, please post below.