Lariat’s website gets digital face-lift, improves usability

By Stephen Strobbe
Reporter

Continuing its evolution alongside the rest of the news industry, the Baylor Lariat has found a new place to call home online. Officially launching with this issue, visitors to the Lariat’s website will notice the new interface coupled with a media-rich design that has been in the works since August.

The Lariat began its online presence in 1995 with a website designed primarily as a place to post stories originally written for the print publication. As the news world has gone through significant changes, the Lariat kept up by maintaining its website to include timely stories of interest to Baylor students, teachers and alumni. In recent years, the Lariat has actively updated a blog and joined popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in an effort to stay connected with the readership and offer a way for them to interact in a more personal way with the paper.

When Paul Carr took over as Director of Student Publications last January and Austin junior Nick Dean began as editor in chief for the Lariat in August, they made it a primary focus to completely revamp the website.

“We’re going into new media; that’s where it’s going. And so this website kind of is the capstone to all of it,” Dean said.

The new site, which can be found at http://www.baylorlariat.com and is still housed on Baylor servers despite the change in domain name, was built entirely on WordPress with a custom theme.

Carr explained the Lariat’s choice to use WordPress: “A colleague at a Texas high school recommended WordPress, which she was using for her school’s news website,” Carr said. “The more I studied and researched WordPress, the more convinced I was it was the right choice. It’s currently being used by a number of national and international news organizations.”

The newly designed site running on Baylor’s WordPress server, which was already hosting WordPress blogs for faculty and staff members, will contain a database for stories written from spring 2011 and onward. The older site, which can still be found at http://www.baylor.edu/lariat, will retain stories from 1995 through the end of 2010.

It took the combined efforts of several people throughout different departments to get things in order for the new site, from the Lariat web editor Jonathan Angel, to Tim Logan and Lance Grigsby with the Baylor Electronic Libraries, along with the rest of the Lariat staff.

The Lariat also intends to expand the multimedia sections on the new site and even plans to release Lariat apps for smart phones.

Despite the focus being put on the site, Dean said the Lariat will continue publishing a physical paper and has no plans to move to an exclusively digital format.

“What we’ve done so far could easily be called an extreme makeover,” Carr said. “Everything has changed about the site. It is more attractive, easier to navigate, more robust in the visuals, slide shows and video components, and much, much faster.”

With highlighted videos, photographs and stories on the front page, easy access to the most recent posts, the option to download the paper as a PDF, and variety of other new features, the new website should serve as a welcome addition for all of the Baylor community.

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