The 69-time Pulitzer Prize winning daily The Washington Post recently announced major improvements in their Core Web Vitals on their website, reaching the highest levels to elevate their user experience.
Based on field data, washingtonpost.com now scores “good” across key performance metrics that include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
“The Washington Post was an early adopter of new Core Web Vitals standards,” said Dave Merrell, the director of product and audience at the daily, “collaborating across product, engineering, and advertising teams to make improvements and ensure that The Post’s site exceeds performance expectations.
“We embrace a culture centered around creating forward-looking solutions, and we’ve long made speed and quality a top priority, so we’re pleased to provide this high level of performance for all readers visiting The Post now and into the future.”
It’s not only the audience that benefits from better site experience. By enhancing their Core Web Vitals, The Washington Post delivers better experiences for advertisers by improving the performance of ad placements all across the site.
“With RED,” said Jeff Turner, head of commercial product, “we always test with users first and have been laser focused on bringing back-end functionality to our advertisements, rather than relying on dynamic, shifting ad sizes.”
Speaking of the back-end, its team looked at ways to bring out changes. “Last summer, the engineering team started to explore how we can best balance The Post’s abundant advertising and content along with page speed to ensure the greatest user experience across our site,” said Julie Bacon, its engineering manager.
“Since then, we’ve seen significant improvement across all three of the key performance metrics, positioning The Post ahead of competitors.”
Enhancing the experience
One common annoyance across almost all news sites is when you open a link to an article and begin reading… only then to lose the line you’re on because the content begins shifting on the page. (This happens to me at least once a day while I’m keeping up with latest news – perhaps I lack the patience.)
This experience is down to layout shift, one of the many website performance issues that is likely to appear if gone untreated.
This is where the paper stepped in and intervened by tending to their Core Web Vitals.
The Washington Post set self-imposed targets to reach “good” levels across Core Web Vitals. And the deadline was this month.
The big issue was that Core Web Vitals pose a huge challenge to a company that relies on rich advertising and content. It’s a challenge to ensure a high and fast experience across all pages while being able to display content, video, and advertising.
Yet the numbers can speak for themselves.
Pre-improvement metric scores
First Contentful Paint: 1.5 seconds
First Input Delay: 37 milliseconds
Cumulative Layout Shift: 0.12
Largest Contentful Paint: 2.3 seconds
Post-improvement metric scores
First Contentful Paing: 1.4 seconds
First Input Delay: 23 milliseconds
Cumulative Layout Shift: 0.04
Largest Contentful Paint: 1.9 seconds
Here are the steps that The Washington Post went through to achieve improvements in Core Web Vitals.
The first thing that the paper did was identify the patterns that currently exist. This let their team dig deep into those under-performing links and detected features and templates.
Next they broke down segments using real user data. They set up dashboards that showed an accurate distribution of their Core Web Vitals scores for actual users.
Finally, they automated and monitored release impact. With continuous deployments and monitoring on newly-built templates, the team also built automated alerts when scores dip below ideal.