With new mobile site, Forbes boosted impressions per session by 10 percent

Forbes has been known for a cumbersome user experience. Earlier this month, the business news publisher appeared on a Google list of sites with “failing” ads. In a recent Digiday poll of publishing execs, Forbes was flagged for having a poor user experience. Even job applications on Forbes are split into multiple webpages.

The publisher is making headway, though. It rolled out a new mobile site in January — a so-called Progressive Web App backed by Google — that cut down the average amount of time it takes to render content to 2.5 seconds from 6.5. The PWA doesn’t feature intrusive interstitials or the homepage ad with a countdown timer. (On desktop, Forbes will keep the ad but get rid of the timer on Aug. 22.) The PWA is available to 25 percent of visitors and is expected to be available to all Forbes users by the end of the third quarter.

Forbes said that among people who are using the PWA, impressions per session are 10 percent higher than those who are using the old mobile site.

The PWA users spend up to 40 percent more time per session and view 15 percent more pages per session. Among that group, there also was a 20 percent decrease in the number of users who read less than one-fourth of an article, said Salah Zalatimo, head of product and tech at Forbes. Zalatimo wouldn’t provide raw numbers.

To gear up for the app rollout, Forbes brought its product and tech teams closer together in January. Managers in charge of particular products got control of their own teams of designers, web developers and data analysts, which cut down on the back-and-forth that used to occur when each group operated separately, Zalatimo said.

Another change that helped was that rather than simultaneously releasing updates a few times per week, product teams now make adjustments on the fly and update the site whenever they want to make a single change. Forbes used to release about two product updates per week, but now it regularly releases multiple updates per day, Zalatimo said. By making changes individually rather than in a pack, developers can more easily isolate and fix problem areas. (The ads division still releases packs of updates twice a week rather than use continuous deployment, though.)

At the beginning of the year, Forbes also shifted to HTTP/2, a web protocol that speeds up page-load time by compressing the information for ad servers. Throughout the past two years, the business publisher has also migrated its servers to the cloud, dialed back its reliance on JavaScript frameworks and adopted algorithms that recode text into digits to reduce the amount of data that passes through servers.

“Every bit we can cut, we celebrate,” said Zalatimo, who noted that these changes helped Forbes cut down the average size of its webpages from 2 megabytes to 300 kilobytes.


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