The King Khalid University Newspaper "Afaq", is a weekly issued university newspaper, and it is unique in being the first university newspaper that is printed in Web system like the daily newspapers. Afaq decided to develop an online news platform to improve their online presence and to create a better educational environment to go along with the new vision of 2030. This is a 40-page special edition detailing plans from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to revitalize the country’s economy, invest in goods and consumer products, and improve public service across all sectors. The special edition addresses the Vision 2030 project in a comprehensive and analytical way and does so from an academic point of view that is compatible with the vision of King Khalid University (KKU).
The General Supervisor and Editor in Chief of the newspaper, Dr. Ali bin Shuweil Al-Qarni, explains that both the university and the newspaper staff were keen on contributing to the Vision 2030 project. This special edition was the first - either from a university or non-university newspaper - to discuss the Vision 2030 project as a whole in a holistic and integrative manner.
Why Drupal was chosen
This free and open source content management system was the natural selection for creation of a new website. The Drupal community is a vast one, with millions of co-creators taking advantage of the free flow of ideas. Without a licensing fee, the university immediately lowered its bottom line. And when development was sped up, costs also dropped. Codebase updates will be provided by the community as well. All of these advantages add up for the organization and future-proof lower spending on many of their projects.
Drupal was also the immediate choice for King Khalid University marketing initiatives. The platform supports feature-rich content management. Unique landing pages are now a possibility for every marketing campaign. It is also extremely secure, with an onsite security team and security updates available as soon as they are released.
Goals, requirements, and outcome of the project
We started the project by analyzing the university’s offline PDF publications and then designed a new news website after studying their branding guidelines and content structure. Our client was looking to take advantage of social media, organic sharing, and driving revenue through a platform built to optimize the use of ads without cluttering their site.
Delivering a new Afaq website in record time
Vardot redesigned the new Afaq website from scratch within a 4-week timeframe. Initially, this publication was only available offline as a PDF. With the new website, it is now all available online, and for the university, it is a much more powerful asset.
It's an enhanced distribution for news sites which focuses on SEO, editorial tools, best practices for news/media/entertainment content types and structure, Facebook Instant Articles, AMP and publication speed improvement. We used the Vardot base distribution built on top of the Drupal 8 CMS framework. Varbase provided out-of-the-box mobile-ready functionalities in standard-compliant modules. Content created by King Khalid University-approved editors can now be published online, promoted through multiple social channels, and distributed with a couple of clicks. Adspace will not infringe upon editorial work, and the highest SEO standards will attract a healthy organic audience year-round.
Search Engine Optimization
One of the primary risks in building a new website for the Afaq newspaper was that organic traffic, painstakingly built up by the previous website, could potentially disappear. It was redesigned and implemented on a different CMS, with migration from one set of URLs to another. Our developers knew they had to work to prevent a drop in search rankings or dead ends online for readers.
On-site SEO support is solid using Drupal, with thousands of tools and modules available to satisfy the university’s requirements. We addressed the initial concern by taking URLs from the original site and redirecting them using the Drupal CMS. Descriptive meta tags facilitated indexing by major search engines. Language-aware XML sitemaps were also used to improve web page visibility. Optimized markups were instated to comply with the web accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 level AA. All of these factors contributed to the success of the SEO strategy for the Afaq website, without any losses in search rankings or visibility.
The Mobile App
We did not stop at website creation for the Afaq newspaper. We also built them a mobile app, now available on iOS and Android phones. The app was built using Drupal 8 JSON APIs. The app is updated in real time as newspaper articles are published online. Updated articles also refresh in real time, so there is no lapse between what readers are seeing on mobile phones, and what they are seeing on their laptops and PCs.
Today’s consumers are attached to smartphones and tables. We wanted to make sure mobile web users of the Afaq website had a great user experience, so our developers adopted a mobile-first approach. The user interface was designed for smaller screen sizes and lower resolutions. Later on, it was enhanced with additional features and content for larger desktop devices. New features and improvements from Uber Publisher and Drupal 8 were heavily utilized to bring the ultimate mobile experience to the consumer. With the power of these two assets, the app was built in a record 2 weeks.