An ABC of R2: H is for home page

…which was launched in May 2007 and incorporated a huge amount of flexibility to tell the day’s news in different ways.

There are two major aspects to the home page’s flexibility. The first, and most obviously, is a variety of templates. In our previous system the home page had almost no flexibility at all, which was a consequence of not separating the content from the presentation — the home page was effectively a small program and changing the layout meant changing the code. That’s not something you can do in the middle of busy news day. As part of the R2 project we created a variety of templates which could be switched in largely at will. I say “largely” at will, because switching layout also means the various areas of the page are spaced differently, some growing and others shrinking, so you need to make sure they all have the right amount of content in them.

The second kind of flexibility is in what you can do on the page. Any one template has internal logic which changes the layout subtly according to where a production staffer marks a break or places an image or video.

We launched our new home page early on 10 May 2007. Around midday Tony Blair announced he was stepping down as prime minister. The event gave the news desk the chance to make use of many alternative templates in various configurations. In the tech team we would check back at the home page throughout the day to see yet another template was on show for the first time. By the end of the day our new software had been given more of a workout than we could have guessed, but it served us all admirably.