The new Xtra Website is the first in the southern hemisphere to use Reuters pictures along with stories from the news agency.
A complete revamp of news sections is one of the features of the new site, which yesterday launched Xtra's new branding on the Internet, capping off six months' work.
Unlike the original Xtra graphic - a piece of finished art created offline and subsequently turned into an imagemap for Web use - the new Xtra logo has been designed with Web use foremost, says marketing manager Chris Thompson.
"We wanted something that was more legible, and the lower case makes it more informal," says Thompson. "It also works well at a small size, and uses Web-safe colours.
"The home page was crucial - that was where we really locked onto and defined the colours for the branding. That's probably a change from the usual branding process where you design your print work first.
"But the home page is an area where people come back to repeatedly and we wanted colours that people would be happy to look at time and time again."
The look and feel of the new site has been tested with focus groups, who were also asked what they wanted to see in a home page.
Content manager Quentin Bright says news headlines from IRN and Reuters will be turned over at least two or three times a day, and Xtra is advertising for a "duty producer" to cover evenings and weekends.
Xtra's news, sport, entertainment, business and support pages have been made over and provided with consistent navigation and a new content "channel", the service-oriented New Zealand Life, has been added. Other sections, including the shopping channel, will be improved in coming months.
The site is build on Vignette Story Server, a powerful dynamic publishing platform that Xtra has had for some time but has not until now put to such a serious application. Website manager Richard Ram says that to increase speed, pages on the site are dynamically created in Story Server and then fed into a cache.
Thompson says old home page got about 100,000 visitors daily. The new platform was successfully tested at "double the maximum load we've ever had".
The site currently features an Internet search window on every page, and will offer the ability to search Xtra's own dynamic content with the Verity engine.
Another key technology for the revamped site is the implementation of the Aria Web statistics package, which will aid in what Thompson describes as its "audience-driven" philosophy. Usage data will help shape the development of the site.