It must be the slow days of summer that bring the fresh paint, as a number of news sites have unveiled redesigns over the past month. The thing is, they’re all becoming more alike!
Here are some who’ve undergone a redesign that appeared recently:
The new NPR web site features a 3-column split on the first screen, a large, black nav bar across the top (a nod to an older demographic, perhaps?), lots of photos as you go down the page, and serif headlines and sans-serif body copy. You can read more about the redesign and NPR’s new digital strategy here.
The Tribune’s new site uses the real Chicago Tribune flag font, and has a lot more white space. But as you’ll see from the next site, it’s not terribly original. (ignore the wide ad that appears in the screengrab above. If you visit the Trib site, it’s not there. There’s also a breaking news story today that has changed the top story layout somewhat.)
Like the Tribune site, the Times’ new site is loaded with white space and a lot of graphics on the front page. The top of the page is clean and readable. As you scroll down past that, you see it looks very much like a WordPress magazine theme. It also looks a lot like the Tribune site with a few font and color differences.
The Trib and the Times are both owned by the Tribune Co., which has been doing its best to consolidate parts of the news product in order to get out of bankruptcy. It makes sense that they’d try to consolidate some of the design elements of their flagship papers.
Naples Daily News – Perhaps the most “out-of-the-box” redesign comes from the Daily News, which features a black background on the first screen. How many professional news sites do you know that do that? The organization is cleaner than the Times/Tribune design, as the sections are horizontally organized as you scroll down the page.
After posting this, a couple more examples came my way.
Annarbor.com – This is the web site that remains after the Ann Arbor, MI News was shut down last month. I confess I never looked at the annarbor.com site before the paper was shut down. Of all these sites, it’s the simplest, with the most white space, a two-column layout with a right nav bar that really looks like a community weblog. (thanks to @captainia on Twitter for the heads up
Newsday – I saw the newsday.com redesign sometime this summer, and, as “bludrop” noted in the comments, it is the most “radically different” redesign I’ve seen so far, even outpacing the Naples News site. The entire site has a deep blue background, with white text. I admit it’s a colorful and pretty well organized front page, although I’m generally not a fan of light text on a dark background in large quantities. Another interesting thing to note is how few ads there are on the page at present. There’s an ad in the header, and an ad on the second screen, and an ad strip at the bottom of the page.
I wrote about the demise of the left nav bar way back in 2007. With these redesigns, plus the numerous redesigns I’m seeing on college news sites these days, it appears the left nav bar is finally being buried for good.
But that raises another quandary: Top nav sites are beginning to look very similar. With colleges some of this can be blamed on similar magazine-style templates, especially those who are moving to WordPress. Change a few colors and fonts in the CSS, and a single theme can be used across numerous sites.
I don’t think this is so much of an issue for college news site readers, who won’t necessarily be looking at numerous college news sites. They tend to go to their alma mater’s site exclusively most of the time.
But for college webmasters and editors, that could be more of an issue. And for professional news sites, it will become an issue at some point (I wonder what the folks at the Trib and L.A. Times think about their kissing-cousin front pages?).
I don’t have a solution (look for different magazine-style templates?). But I am glad more sites are going to top nav front page designs. Top nav designs look much better than the old left navs, and push more news up to the top of the page.