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Boosting a startup online newspaper

Two guys, one idea, and no front-end experience. The emerging online law newspaper Rett24 faced obstacles and overcame them all thanks to Enonic XP.

Introduction

After completing a higher degree in law, Kjetil Kolsrud went on to work with journalism and business and labour organisations. Twenty years later he wanted to do something different. Kolsrud went back to his roots in both the legal and editorial world—this time combining his knowledge of law and journalism to build something of his own: the startup online law newspaper Rett24.

Hearing about Kolsrud’s latest aspirations, Runar Myklebust of Enonic suggested that Rett24 should be built on the platform Enonic XP—even though a CMS alternative like WordPress was tempting due to its low coding skill requirements. However, Enonic XP is fully flexible, can scale to fit any need, and has a user-friendly editor. By these reasons Kolsrud agreed to base the startup on the Norwegian web application platform.

Challenge

While not lacking in tenacity and optimism, Rett24 was only one person, with the addition of an expert from Enonic. Kolsrud’s expertise in law and journalism, and Myklebust’s expertise in back-end development left a blind spot for expertise in front-end development, that is HTML and CSS.

Adding to the deficiency of a dedicated designer were the constraints of time and limited resources—a perfect recipe for an uphill battle. However, due to Myklebust’s deep knowledge of Enonic XP the challenge was still accepted head-on.

There was also a challenge from an editorial point of view: “A big challenge is to get the site to be as editor-friendly as possible, making it easy to work as a one-man show,” says Kjetil Kolsrud. He continues: “At the same time the site must have enough flexibility to make a great product for the site’s readers as well.”

Solution

Drawing on inspiration from other online news sites, the Rett24 team decided to give the website a traditional design—focusing on presenting the content in an easy and effective manner. The front page would consist of a grid, while the articles themselves would leverage the content in a classic design formula.

The duo sat together with limited Internet connection and coded the emerging website, but the connectivity issues were of no importance as Enonic XP made it easy to download and set up a developer environment locally and then get to it.

While none of the involved had any expertise in HTML and CSS, they also didn’t have much experience with marketing tools like Google Analytics. However, it was easy to integrate with third-party tools through Enonic Market, making it a breeze to get started here as well.

“I have had a tremendous use of the built-in search from Elasticsearch,” says Kolsrud. “The search function makes the reuse of old elements very effective. The possibility to edit from a mobile phone has also been very useful for me.”

Myklebust developed the front-end through the CSS module set Pure, and made the frontpage consist of a series of optional components on each row. For instance, Rett24.no can have 1 article on a row, or 3 articles on a row with one big and two small, and so on—with Enonic XP allowing flexible layout options both vertically and horizontally.

Kolsrud, on the other hand, used the responsive drag and drop Page Editor to easily handle the rest of the design elements, while also taking advantage of the intuitive WYSIWYG features.

In total, the entire website consists of only 10 different parts, including parts for “showing content”, a carousel for job listings and person news, a banner, an item list, featured person list, and so on.

Results

Rett24.no was on the drawing board in spring 2017, in development during the summer, and finally released on 1 November 2017. The road from idea to finished product—a robust and future-proof product—was made possible by the hard work of two people and the powerful web content management platform Enonic XP.

Founder and editor Kjetil Kolsrud thinks Enonic XP helps and leverages his daily endeavours of running the online news site: “It is incredibly motivating to work in a tailor-made system where everything is reliable and effective,” says Kolsrud.

Since its release the website has gained traction, and has grown to 10,000 unique weekly users, based on a demographic of total 20,000 legal professionals in Norway. Enonic XP and Enonic Cloud are also responsible for handling the periodic massive spikes of traffic, due to the site’s content being shared on editorial aggregation sites in Norway. Even with 1,200 requests every second the system is able to perform well without any issues, due to the highly optimised Enonic XP deployment.

Technical overview

  • Enonic XP – CMS and web application platform
  • Hosting in Enonic Cloud
  • Custom grid framework for newspaper layout
Enonic XP is amazingly user-friendly and has exactly the elements I need as an editor, and not all the stuff I don’t need.
Kjetil Kolsrud, founder & editor, Rett24