How a small change to BuzzFeed’s CMS vastly improved its mobile website

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If you’ve been publishing on the internet for long, you undoubtedly know what it’s like when you spend a significant amount of time formatting an article for the web, only to realize hours or even days later that the piece looks like shit on mobile. A photograph that you had right-aligned makes a paragraph unreadable. An image, rendered for the mobile screen, is tiny and indecipherable. The pagination is broken. Because we do most of our writing and publishing on a desktop/laptop, it doesn’t always occur to us to visit our own article on our mobile phone to ensure that it’s still readable. Realizing this, BuzzFeed’s vice president of growth and data Dao Nguyen made a subtle-yet-important change to the site’s CMS:

But writing a big list post is a lot of work, she said, and previewing it on a non-desktop platform was a task easily forgotten.

Now when BuzzFeed authors click the preview button in their CMS, they see what their posts will look like on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers when they preview them, Nguyen said. That’s a fix that’s important for the site’s readers’ experiences, because sometimes writers use “embeds and large graphics that don’t scale down to mobile-sized screens,” Chris Johanesen, BuzzFeed’s vice president of product, said on the same call.