Responses by Traction Factory
Background: WMSE (91.7 FM) is a fiercely independent, listener-supported radio station owned and operated by the Milwaukee School of Engineering. For nearly 40 years, the station has been a treasured part of the city’s cultural fabric, but its website was dated. WMSE’s online presence needed to reflect its past while looking to its future; feature info on upcoming events, as well as a robust show and playlist archive; be as dynamic as the station’s eclectic mix of content and the deejays that preside over it; and engage those daring enough to tune in. While the site’s design is intentionally loud and frenetic, its infrastructure, navigation and content were completely overhauled to create a richer, more intuitive user experience.
Favorite details: Our design was inspired not only by the punk rock ethos of the station’s origins and its pirate radio spirit, but also by WMSE’s long-standing connection to the local arts community. One key feature of the site is that each song is accompanied by its album art, thus creating an ever-changing home page that connects visitors with artists both aurally and visually. To build on this aesthetic, we created more than 70 pieces of original art and positioned them strategically throughout the site.
Challenges: The old WMSE site organized its more than 6,000 archival broadcasts by date and time rather than show title. To bring clarity and simplicity to the site, we manually reorganized thousands of recordings so users could easily navigate its content. While the process was painstaking, we were determined to not lose a single show—and we didn’t.
Technology: As WMSE is a nonprofit entity, it was important to respect its budget and anticipate future maintenance costs. We opted to keep the site on WordPress not only for content and data history but to keep costs down. We also migrated the show archives to Azure to improve performance and further reduce costs. Finally, we developed our own custom playlist system to display all songs played during each show, utilizing the custom APIs provided by Spinitron, our playlist-logging partner.