Trinity Mirror Group improves user experience across dozens of websites

SOASTA mPulse performance analysis software helps firm achieve digital transformation goals

Trinity Mirror Group is using a performance management tool to improve the user experience of dozens of its websites, including regional and national publications like the Daily Mirror and the Liverpool Echo.

To ensure the UX is as good as possible across its 29 titles, the company has already overhauled its content management system (CMS) and, more recently, implemented performance analysis tool mPulse by SOASTA.

"[In] 2011 we selected our new web CMS to roll out across our group," Neil McIntyre, director of engineering for digital at Trinity Mirror Group, told IT Pro.

"We had previously had a bespoke, in-house built CMS that had many hundreds of thousands of lines of legacy code, many of which were no longer relevant but still caused us performance issues. The whole thing needed investment and the choice was either we invest further in that product or we go with something off-the-shelf."

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Trinity decided to select an off-the-shelf CMS, starting to roll it out in 2012-13.

The implementation of the new CMS coincided with a redesign of the company's mobile and desktop sites. But, as the project progressed, McIntyre started getting anecdotal evidence that there were loading problems being experienced across certain operating systems, devices and connection types.

"We did and still do have specific performance tools to monitor the performance of our sites, but they are more like an emulation of performance rather than real user performance," McIntyre admitted. "It gives us an idea how our pages are loading, but it doesn't tell us what our users are actually experiencing."

To address this gap, the company decided to implement a front-end, real time analytics platform that could deliver accurate insight into the actual user experience on its digital platforms, known as real user monitoring.

"We looked at a few of the products that are on the market and some of them were very strong on the back-end side - the server side and database side - but we really wanted to understand the performance at the front-end - what the user sees within their browser and how the page loads," explained McIntyre.

"That's why we ended up selecting mPulse, because it was much stronger on that side of things. We also wanted to get a nice dashboard across all the devices and browsers and have a look at what we could actually monitor, what we could actually improve upon," he said.

"Key to this, as well, is that while we've rolled out the new web CMS and done the redesign, nothing stands still. The market changes as well and we have to address that and make sure we are, as much as possible, responsive across all devices," he added.

"So we've engaged that and our project now is to further develop the site, further develop the architecture, and develop processes around that which enable us to deploy code as quickly as we can."

The mPulse platform also gives the company a greater depth of information through a customisable dashboard that can be tailored to the needs of business users and IT.

For the time being, the company is using the product purely for real-time monitoring and before-and-after scenarios when new code is rolled out to see if there is and performance degradation.

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"We have set ourselves a goal of page load speed and a reduction in page load time of 'x' amount and we want to be able to be sure we can achieve that. Without having the granularity of this product, we wouldn't be able to measure all of our this, plus third parties', as we move forward," McIntyre concluded.

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