Beautiful by itself isn’t that hard — there are lots of beautiful sites on the web, and lots of talented designers. When it comes to effective story discovery, the innovation has all been in the direction of algorithms and raw feeds. An algorithm is how Facebook surfaces items in your News Feed; a raw feed is how Twitter organizes tweets from the people you follow, in straight reverse chronological order. But neither of those is perfect for human editorial control, which is something news organizations rightly value; there are tons of visual and contextual cues on those complicated nytimes.com pages that tell me what Times editors think is more or less important for me to see.
While Nieman Journalism Lab approached from a journalist’s perspective, Paul Scrivens on Drawar takes a designers view:
Why can’t news agencies get on the ball and realize they are missing a great opportunity to leap ahead of their competition? Whenever you read about the newspaper industry all you hear about is the decline of revenue and how all papers will soon disappear. Everyone is fighting for eyeballs and the way they do it is by looking exactly like their competition?
Now I know it doesn’t have as much content as the NYT, but don’t you wish that more news sites looked like Gapers Block? Would you ever have a problem going to a beautiful site like that to catch up on what is happening today? Hell, wouldn’t you go back to check even more just because of the pleasant design? We are forced to go somewhere if we want our news and that is what is keeping these horrible news sites alive.
Is it wrong to like the Rutledge redesign? Of course not. It is a beautifully laid out page and the aesthetics are spot on, but I just think news sites need a bit more treatment than what we can get from a blog format. This may requires a whole new line of thinking that we haven’t seen before and I do believe the NYT is on the right path with Skimmer. The site itself probably publishes hundreds of news items a day. The current version of their homepage is how they believe they should handle passing all of the information to their audience. It doesn’t make it right, but it helps to show their line of thinking.
My posts here tagged news are, IMO, some of the most interesting on this blog. This post is a follow-up to News redux: Fixing news presentation online, and I expect to be posting some more ideas I have on this subject soon, in the same vein as my Permanews: Old news is good news post.
- Moby Dick Project: Rethinking news presentation on the web
- What can The Drudge Report teach web designers? (Updated today to include a reference to this 37signals article on the same subject.)