How can we empower our readers to easily navigate through elections coverage and make informed decisions? It's a question we ask every year around this time as we sift through our months of articles around people and issues leading up to November. We publish a wealth of journalism, but have no easy way of tying it all together in an easily-digestible format. It's a problem that we've never come close to solving. Until now.
I'd like to introduce you to the brand spakin' new Seattle Times Election Guide. Our freshly-launched, fully-responsive and location-based app lets readers enter their location to see a customized guide, containing information about candidates and links to recent Seattle Times stories on those races. From our project's about page:
The Seattle Times 2012 Election Guide was built to encourage better voter literacy at the polls. We've simplified getting the latest news and basic information for the candidates that matter most to you.
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Upward and onward
The launch of The Seattle Times election guide represents a few important technical and cultural firsts at The Seattle Times -- firsts that I'm really proud of.
It’s the first time we’ve launched a fully responsive web app that works across all devices. It’s the first time we’ve had a developer working fulltime on newsroom applications projects. It’s the first time we’ve worked on a newsroom web project completely outside of our traditional publishing systems. It’s the first time we’ve taken advantage of location-based services to give a fully customized reader experience.
It's also been a lesson in rapid, iterative development. The readme for this project was committed to GitHub on July 25, 2012. We launched August 22, meaning there was less than a month from idea stage to launch. This is huge progress, made possible by having a dedicated developer and managers who trusted our team to make the right decisions without going through the standard processes for approval. We went into this project with an experimental mindset, focusing specifically on how we can develop quickly and efficiently. As Kevin Schaul said, "It’s a working example of what can happen with a healthy balance of direction and freedom to experiment."
What you're seeing now is only the first iteration. More updates to come leading into November.
Huge shoutout to lead developer on the project, Kevin Schaul. Developer Dean Kramer was also instrumental. My contribution, as usual, was the UI/design/vision. Albert "IT Guy" McMurry made sure we had access to tools we needed. Big thanks to assistant managing editor for digital, Eric Ulken, for giving us the freedom to do cool things. And the rest of the newsroom for being generally supportive while those young kids in the corner try crazy things.