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How to Embrace Digital Design Like NYT

This morning, The New York Times announced a radical redesign of its website — a slimmed-down and minimalistic experience that evokes the Times stunning and oft-replicated digital experience “Snow Fall.” The design marries a lot of what users have raved about the Times‘ iPad experience, while also offering “premium” space for ads.

“As we continue to develop our rich content offerings across video, slideshows, data visualization and interactive graphics, these adjustments to NYTimes.com provide the structure our newsroom needs to deliver a best-in-class digital news report,” says excutive Jill Abramson in the company’s blog.

As the Times continues to aggressively keep up with the evolution of digital design, there’s plenty of takeaways to apply to any website. Keep in mind these three tips, and you can ensure your website is ahead of the curve.

1. Web Design Is Constantly Evolving

The Times has certainly come a long way from the design it had ten years ago, but there’s no denying that it’s missing the edge of some modern publications, such as the responsive design of Mashable or the new Kinja layout of Gawker publications Deadspin and Jalopnik. In order to keep up with the times, the Times has to adapt.

Here are just a few features the Times is including in its beta design:

  • Richer integration of photography, video and interactive story elements
  • More efficient customized navigation for registered users
  • Responsive designs optimized for desktops and tablets
  • Higher-impact presentation of advertising
  • Improved ability to scan and discover content
  • Better-integrated user-comments and share tools

These all seem like no-brainers in design concepts, but many of these ideas have been difficult to execute only until the recent past. The evolution of programming languages like HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and Ruby on Rails have made it easier to execute dynamic and responsive designs — especially one that caters to personalized experiences.

It’s critical to keep up with programming language and all of of the design capabilities that open up with it. The more often your company adapts to new techniques, even in small ways like enhanced video and slideshow players, the more users will respond positively to the overall design of your website.

2. Never Forget Moore’s Law

The crux of Moore’s Law is this: efficiency of technological systems will climb higher, meaning that devices will become smaller. And as devices become smaller, more people will use them for everyday things — naturally, browsing on the web is at the top of the list.

It’s a key pillar of web design to consistently account for every setting a website will be viewed — whether it be Internet Explorer 8 or Safari for iPhone. But, it’s much easier said than done, and many mobile web experiences can leave much to be desired. Whether its embracing responsive design or creating a minimalist mobile app, the better a website looks on a small device, the more future-proof it will be.

Alternately, the experience on a mobile product can actually affect the overall web design on the computer. Many of the Times’ new features, such as quick browsing and easy-access commenting, are already available on the publication’s tablet experience. Co-opting what works on that platform may spell success for the Times’ new computer layout and create a more unified look across devices.

3. When in Doubt, Go Minimalist

Design fads come and go, but what makes the  Times‘ new design so striking is its decision to eschew the traditional “news’ layout of articles in favor a more stripped-down multimedia focused design. It’s a bold move, but one that preserves the website’s brand in a thoughtful and interesting way.

Minimalism and direct navigation have always been highly praised in Internet design, so don’t shy away from it. Within the next year, we’ll start to see more and more publications leaving the traditional philosophy of “preserving the paper” look to a more cutting-edge and edited design.

Don’t be afraid to leave traditional layouts behind, but avoid fad designs — embrace smart and functional design like the Times and feel ahead of the pack.

What do you think of the Times‘ design choices? Let us know in the comments.

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