Android Headlines:
A Case Study
Building a custom WordPress website and refreshing branding for a long-time Reaction client and one of the heaviest hitters in the tech media space.

What we delivered

• UI & UX Design
• Custom WordPress Theme
• Ad injection Control Panel
• WebP Image Compression
• Dark & Light Mode Toggle
• Mailchimp Integration
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Project Brief

Founded in 2009 and a Reaction client since 2014, Android Headlines is a go-to publisher for the latest news on the Android OS ecosystem and consumer tech.

Over the last decade, they have experienced exponential growth and have cemented their position as a competitor in their market. With all of that growth, they came to us looking for a contemporary overhaul of their website to address growing pains so they can remain on the cutting edge of publishers in their space.

Our Growth-driven Partnership

Since retaining our services in 2014, Android Headlines’ article footprint and user base have more than doubled to 90,000 articles and 625k+ monthly visitors.

We have been instrumental in that growth, serving as a true digital partner for Android Headlines with support for their web design, development, maintenance, backups, hosting and SEO efforts.

With that level of growth came some headaches, and their site performance began to lag behind the competition, and the scale of their website outgrew the navigation structure, making it difficult for users to browse the site organically to find the wealth of content published onsite.

Those problems are daunting ones for any publisher but especially troubling for a tech media company, whose readers care more about page speed and user experience than the average user.

1st Page on Google for “Android News”

Overall, the biggest problem Android Headlines faced were slow load times and a difficult navigation flow.

We knew Android Headlines needed a refreshed site with a renewed focus on speedy and seamless browsing of their content catalogue, but we absolutely did not want to disrupt any search engine real estate that had fought so hard to earn.

After all, organic traffic leads to advertising and affiliate revenue, and, for a news publisher, losing out on ad dollars in the short or long term is simply not an option.

I have been using Reaction for more than 5 years now and have worked on small-scale projects to very large complicated projects and have always been happy with their work.

They have been instrumental in my online-businesses success. They bring a wealth of experience to the table, and I consider them now part of my team. Working with them is always a pleasure, and they are true problem-solvers and innovators.

I am proud to be partnered with them and would recommend them to any company serious about their online business. Mike and his team at Reaction are like family to me, and I love working with them.

Our Goals for Android Headlines

Speed

Deliver a fast and stable website with best-in-class performance metrics that stack in the run-up to Google’s Core Web Vitals update.

Design + UX

Provide a sharply designed branded experience that flows intuitively to allow readers to find the content they want

Custom Theme

Create a one-of-a-kind theme that allows for everything the client needs and nothing they don’t

SEO

Baked-in SEO best practices to launch the refreshed website while maintaining search engine rankings

Website Performance

At 90,000 articles and counting, the case could be made that Android Headlines was simply outgrowing their WordPress site. However, WordPress offers unparalleled ease of use, especially for formatting rich posts and articles on the go. For a publisher with such an ambitious post schedule and a long history of operating under the WP banner, we felt it necessary to stay within the platform for the web refresh.

So, how do you dramatically increase page speeds on a massive WordPress site without disrupting the workflow of the writers working behind the scenes? Well, it all starts with a strategy.

Page Speed Formula: Image Optimization + Ad CDN + AMP = Custom WordPress Site

Image Optimization

With over 2.1 million images on the site in various formats and stages of compression, the Android Headlines media library was definitely a culprit in the slower page speeds users were experiencing.

To fix this, we spent over a month optimizing every image in their catalogue with lossless compression to be served in the next-gen WebP format. This took time but was worth it in the end.

We also implemented a plugin that converts and compresses any new images uploaded, a feature that saves their writers and editors valuable time when creating content each day.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

As Android Headlines is primarily a news site for mobile phone aficionados, it was essential that the site performed well and looked great on mobile.

To accomplish this, we created a custom theme for Accelerated Mobile Pages that loads quickly, mirrors the desktop user experience, and intuitively allows the user to read content effortlessly on their device of choice.

Even though Google is phasing out AMP badges in search results, the mobile page speeds we see on these AMP pages are more than worth the effort and provide strong ranking signals for Google’s crawl bots.

UI & UX Design

While performance, stability, and page speed were at the top of our list going into this project, we certainly didn’t skimp on design and user experience aspects either.

In redesigning the Android Headlines site from the ground up, we sought to deliver a clean design focusing on the reading experience, the ability to design rich articles that pop off the screen, and a custom theme smoothly coded with as few bloating plugins as possible.

Clean Reading Experience

The majority of Android Headlines traffic is pointed toward articles, so we wanted to provide a totally optimized reading experience for the end-user.

Taking a look at an article, this may not seem high-tech, but we went all-in and spent a lot of time tweaking line height, kerning, white space, and typefaces to create a user experience that makes the reader feel comfortable consuming several articles in a row without suffering undue eye strain.

Custom WordPress Theme

We find that premade WordPress themes can either be packed with bloat or too generic to include some of the features we want for our clients. We took it upon ourselves to design a custom WordPress theme that delivered exactly what was needed, which would allow for future growth and be easy to maintain.

Everything is tailor-made to the client and their specifications.

Dark Mode Toggle

To further mirror the mobile ecosystem in a custom website and improve the reading experience for users, we implemented a dark mode by default with a selectable toggle switch.

You may recall we called out dark mode in web design in one of our “8 Trends to Look Out For” blogs, and we’re sticking to it.

Beyond being a cool feature, we find that dark mode allows for longer session times and more pages per session, which translates into more ad revenue for Android Headlines.

Image Before
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Custom Content Blocks

In order to facilitate a truly next-level article creation workflow, our developers used Advanced Content Fields to create custom content blocks that allow their editors to really enrich the content to stand out from the crowd.

From call-to-action buttons to feature lists, we exhaustively designed features that really iced the proverbial cake.

One great example of these content blocks is the “Pros & Cons” review block. We designed it to look premium and to include Android Headlines branding by the review score and an affiliate link button that can funnel the user through to a purchase that earns AH a commission.

What makes these content blocks really great? No custom coding. If they want to change something, it’s as simple as changing a parameter in CSS or updating the template. Too easy!

Easy Advertisement Optimizations

In addition to the legion of images we compressed and optimized, we were faced with another problem— display advertisements.

As a media publisher, Android Headlines brings in their revenue through display advertisements from their partner ad services. These ads are often poorly optimized images served arbitrarily by the ad service, and that can really add up on page speed scores (pun totally intended).

So, we set the ads to defer loading until after Core Web Vitals are measured, which allows for a snappier experience for users, and makes Google happy, too.

Ad Injection Control Panel

In order to maximize revenue for Android Headlines and minimize ad placement by their editorial staff, we created a custom script that injects an ad after a predetermined number of paragraph breaks.

This can all be controlled in the backend, so experimenting with more or fewer ads is also possible. We even created a custom rule that caps off ad placements if more than a certain number runs on a given article.

MailChimp Integration for Email Marketing

To maximize brand awareness and reader touchpoints, we built a custom MailChimp template with an RSS feed that allows for automated daily and weekly newsletters to go out with minimal effort from the Android Headlines team.

Android Headline

Building a custom WordPress website and refreshing branding for a long-time Reaction client and one of the heaviest hitters in the tech media space.

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