Nick CappoLamar HendersonThe RJI website recently received a makeover inside and out.

After two years of work, a two-person team at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute launched a new and improved with responsive Web design and better search and navigation features.  

Why the need for the update?

There were a several reasons the website needed an update, says Lamar Henderson, RJI’s website administrator. First, the site was difficult to navigate on a mobile device because it had neither a responsive design nor a dedicated mobile version. About one-quarter of users now access the RJI website via mobile devices.

In addition, some of the site’s features no longer worked appropriately, Henderson says. This was partly because the website's content management system (CMS) became outdated as technology changed rapidly and it was starting to lose support from its hosting environment.

“The website fell behind as newer technologies were developed,” says Nick Cappo, RJI’s website assistant and a full-time computer science student at the University of Missouri (MU).

Henderson and Cappo have been working on the new site to ensure users have multiple ways to find content they’re interested in. According to Henderson, users regularly commented that they had difficulty tracking down specific content on the old site.

“We’re trying to anticipate how users are going to use the site, recognizing that different users think differently about the content they’re looking for,” says Henderson.

Henderson also said that the RJI site switched to a Google search engine, which people tend to be more familiar with and which provides better search results for users.

The use of tagging

One way the team is making content more accessible is by grouping stories by categories and tags. According to Henderson, categories are broad topics, whereas tags are more specific. For example, the word “food” would be considered a category and “apples,” “pears” and “bananas” would be tags.

Each story is put in specific categories; readers click tags at the bottom of each story to see other related content. They can also find related content in the website’s sidebars, says Henderson, which is based on how the content on the site is tagged.

New website is a work in progress

RJI was also looking for a more flexible CMS that would allow it to do more with the limited development resources available to it.

“[We wanted] to create an infrastructure to expand what we want to do on the Web in terms of delivering content to our audience,” Henderson says.

Currently the site only includes the past two years of content. Femi Odugbesan and Aleks Sverdlovs, MU computer science students, helped set up a system to migrate content from the old website to the new site. During the next six months, Henderson will move the rest of the content to the new site and clean the content so all old links work and outdated information is deleted.

Jennifer Nelson-Pallikkathayil  
Senior Information Specialist


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