As Belgium’s main supplier of current affairs to the media, Belga News Agency gathers and distributes news from a staggering number of sources and news brands, including print, online, multimedia and social media channels, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Among its subscribers are journalists, PR managers and communication officers, as well as government institutions, companies and organisations.
Digital technology has revolutionised the media landscape, both for those gathering, producing and distributing news, and for those consuming it. But while many of us consume news mainly in our down time, others like media, journalism and communications professionals can’t afford to arrive late to the game; they need to be constantly up-to-date on the topics that concern them.
With news being gathered 24/7 from over 300 sources across Belgium and further afield, Belga wanted to help its subscribers find exactly the news that interests them in the most streamlined and user-friendly way. They also wanted to offer a variety of formats to suit different preferences and time constraints.
Together with the Belga Press Agency team, we strategised and defined a mobile app that would serve as a powerful, go-to resource in the day-to-day communications work of its subscribers.
The Belga.press app brings together content from all Belga Press Agency’s news sources, and allow users to run complex searches, curate news items through the use of tags, receive notifications and easily share news items with colleagues.
We developed the app in React Native to offer Android and iOS versions without the need to develop and maintain two parallel apps. Through an incremental agile process, we were able to optimise the app’s speed and performance in ten different ways, ensuring the best possible user experience for busy communications professionals.
performance optimisations based on user impact
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Once the product strategy was firmly in place, our definition and engineering squad used an agile product development process to shape the final app. At each stage, we carried out performance testing and ranked our findings according to the perceived end-user impact.
Rather than devoting time to optimising each individual functionality for speed and performance, this approach kept our focus and priorities on the areas that would bring the most benefit to the overall user experience.
To make sure all its subscribers could benefit equally from a powerful mobile news tool, Belga News Agency needed to offer both an Android and iOS version of the app.
By choosing React Native development – one code base for both Android and iOS – rather than native app development, we were able to take advantage of a faster development time, thereby getting the app to market in a shorter time.
Also, thanks to the common code, ongoing maintenance and future upgrades are also easier and therefore less costly than if we had developed two separate apps.
In terms of quality and usability, React Native’s simplified user interfaces help ensure a great user experience. We were able to define, design and build a clean, modern user-friendly interface, and offer a unified experience across both Android and iOS devices.
One example of how we optimised the mobile app performance can be seen with how the Belga.press ‘storytag’ functionality works.
Through storytags, users can follow different topics they’re interested in, e.g. climate change. In this case, every news item tagged with ‘climate change’ is clustered to that storytag, effectively grouping all related news items. In the app, each storytag topic is divided into three categories, which appear as tabs: News, Activity on social media and Related topics.
To ensure optimal loading time of the first tab the user sees, the News tab, we load the two other categories/tabs in the background, rather than rendering all three at once. This means that when the user switches tabs, the content loads instantly, offering a seamless user experience.