Rolling out the new

Since 1955, Roll Call has reported on the United States Congress, sharing information on politics, legislation, and grassroots advocacy directly from the United States’ capital. In January, they launched a redesign of their flagship website, and we are proud to be the partner who made that happen. Not only were we excited by the prospect of working with such an esteemed publication (our Product Owner (PO) jokingly said he wanted this project because of his love for West Wing and Roll Call’s repeated references), but the redesign also gave us another opportunity to iterate on our headless framework, Irving.

FiscalNote (Roll Call’s parent company) came to Alley looking to achieve two things, migrate years of editorial content from multiple data sources into a single WordPress instance, and implement a new design on a headless React front end.

Over the course of nearly two decades of publishing their reporting online, Roll Call had amassed over 100,000 pieces of content, including articles, podcasts, and videos. The canonical source of data for all of this content was a SOLR instance where articles were published in a custom data format. This workflow was a major pain point for their editorial staff, who could not update older content without enlisting a developer to edit the Solr instance manually. Alley developed an importer to move the content into WordPress from Solr, creating an automatic sync between the live site and our development environment. Once the raw data was imported, an asynchronous transformer applied logic to the content, transforming it into WordPress posts and users.

Headless content management systems are still gaining understanding and adoption in the WordPress community, and Alley is excited to have launched another site developed with our open-source headless framework Irving, now in its new packaged format. Hosted by our partners at VIP Go, the React/Node frontend has seen greatly improved site metrics around performance and SEO. Alley implemented the redesign as a library of components following atomic design principles. Roll Call is excited to have a great foundation built from the ground up for long-term growth and development.

While developing Roll Call’s redesign and migrating their content, Alley made two major improvements to Irving. We decided to use styled-components for features like server-side rendering and auto-generating critical styles. Irving Core has also been refactored into a series of NPM packages, speeding up new project scaffolding and Irving upgrades. As we continue to develop new Irving sites and improve/create features, upgrading to the latest functionality will be simple.

Great accessibility on the web is no longer a luxury. From the very beginning of this project, we kept WCAG 2.1 AA standards in mind and continually performed audits during the development process using tools like Google Chrome’s Lighthouse. Roll Call is just as dedicated to accessibility as we are, which made it easy to spend the time and focus we needed to execute this very important part of any project.

Although it’s only been a few weeks, Roll Call is already seeing some great results from their new site. Load time has been reduced by 40%, and the number of requests on a repeat view dropped to only 13% of the original number. Using Google’s automated Lighthouse tool, the site now scores in the top 10% for accessibility, best practices, and SEO.

For the past 65 years, Roll Call has been leading political coverage on Capitol Hill. We’re thrilled to be part of that history as they expand and grow their world-respected reporting. Alley is proud to have partnered with Roll Call to execute their re-platforming and is excited to be part of their future growth.