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Announcing the New PRWeb News Release Creation Tool

Today we are announcing the launch of our updated news release creation tool.  I wanted to take this opportunity to provide background into the thinking and effort that went into this update, which is probably one of our most significant user experience enhancements we have made in the past several years.

Planning for this revision actually started back in November of last year.

At that point in time we were rolling out a fairly lightweight newsroom product and our lead developer on the project pushed for us to use a ‘What You See is What You Get’ (WYSIWYG) approach that allowed the user to interact with something resembling the final product.

Upon launch, the initial UX feedback was extremely positive and at this point in time we started seriously thinking about using a similar approach with the news release creation process.

Intuitively it seemed like the right decision.   Our existing tool, which used a form field based approach, had been initially developed in a text-based news paradigm.  Over the past several years we had rolled out dozens of feature enhancements to the news release and its public facing form had evolved into an interactive, multimedia Web document.  On the back end however, the functionality had outgrown the form field based tool and new, powerful features were sometimes getting lost.  A new release creation process seemed warranted given where we had come with the news release.

However, changing the news release creation process meant we would be altering the most fundamental behavior on PRWeb.  This was a process that thousands of users had grown accustomed to and any fundamental UX change with such a large user base is a daunting consideration.

Inhaling deeply, we wrote down the following goals that would become our guiding light throughout this  process:

  1. Ensure that existing PRWeb users would experience a seamless transition to the new tool and better able to take advantage of the full array of features that PRWeb offers.
  2. Make it easier for new users to create multimedia news releases on PRWeb and take advantage of new features and technologies.
  3. Create a more flexible, scalable framework that would allow us to do a better job supporting new features moving forward.

After agreeing upon the goals of the project, we presented a variety of approaches with internal and external user groups and ultimately decided that a WYSIWYG-type approach was the right way to go.  We then designed a plan that would A) be driven by user feedback from multiple types of users, B) provide us with the flexibility to iterate until we were comfortable launching; and C) take into account best practices of proper UX design.

After two quarters of development, numerous iteration and several rounds of user testing, we finally got to a place where we felt comfortable deploying the tool.

Our plan moving forward is to run the new tool in tandem with the legacy tool (for existing users) until the feedback authoritatively shows that existing users are comfortable transitioning.  At this point in time we will permanently switch to the new tool.  During this time, I do want to note that we will be introducing new features and enhancements into the new tool exclusively.

The news release has changed.  It is our sincere hope and belief that this new tool will cut back on the time and effort associated with managing content in a multimedia news release and provide more time for our users to focus on creating content.  As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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