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Posts Tagged ‘news design’

Vox.com Should Not Explain It All

voxlogo.jpgLike #slatepitches before it, the hype surrounding Ezra Kein’s endeavor, the focus on explaining it all, and the format of news cards — all good, interesting things — has basically set Vox.com up to be mocked.

When they’re talking about the Affordable Care Act or Ukraine, it all makes sense. When they start to explain Tinder? That’s where it starts to feel a little forced. It feels like some of the superfluous explainers, like the Game of Thrones recaps and maps, are good for social sharing and traffic, but not for their mission. If anything, they are distracting and sort of embarrassing, like when your mom used to write on your Facebook wall.

I know they want to cover everything and be the Wikipedia of news, but maybe they should stick to covering wonk. We can chart Nicholas Cage’s career over at Buzzfeed and talk about “hangry” over at The Atlantic. I know it doesn’t sound very innovative or new, but why don’t they stick to what they know? The card decks really work for that. Read more

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Are We Stuck with Hashtags and Like Buttons?

The coverage on Nieman Journalism Lab yesterday of the Engaging News Project pretty much ruined my coffee break as I clicked through the research: there are few things I love more than seemingly wonky research about journalism and democracy. Especially when it’s put in action. Talia Stroud’s research shows, in the most simple explanation, that when you change the language, it can also change how people engage with your website. That should perk most of our ears up. If you want, you can already start making your readers ‘Respect’ stories instead of ‘Like’ them with a WordPress plug-in.

What you can’t make people do, according to her research, is actively seek out information that goes against their views, or their niche. That sounds like old news to me. We’re all in our own little ‘bubbles’ to use Bill Maher’s lingo. That’s bad for democracy, but good for online publishers. It also has something to do with why magazines have fared better in a digital landscape. Chris Hughes of The New Republic spoke to a lot of like-minded, nodding heads this week about how readers (users? can we agree on a terminology?) still look for ‘curated editorial experiences’ whether online or off. That’s something not easy to do with a daily news site, but the goal of most magazines — whether it’s the New Republic or Slate or Field and Stream. 

Apart from saving democracy from ourselves online, the Respect button has my head spinning for another reason. In terms of design and user experience, it’s hard for pubs to break out of the Web 2.0 standards whether it’s about asking readers to like things, comment, or use hashtags. I’m sure there are many strategists and design experts who haven’t slept considering the same things.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that everything starts to look the same, all the time. I don’t know for how much longer I even want to ‘like’, let alone ‘respect’ content online, although that’s the formula publications work with to determine all the numbers that make up their bottom line.

Maybe it’s the stormy weather on the East Coast that has me thinking too much about it — but what do you think? If we’ve moved past Web 2.0 and onto the semantic web, how does that affect how we’ll have to start thinking about reader engagement and page design? Is it just that we’ll  be able to better search our hashtags and generate more niche content to read? 

What Newspapers Can Learn from ‘Medium’

I’ve harped on it before and I’m nowhere close to being done: news design and consumption experiences are completely broken. Medium, a new platform from Twitter founder Ev Williams, takes a new approach to (among other things) content design — and there’s a lot the news industry can learn from them.

So when I say news design, I’m not talking about fonts and colors, though that’s certainly part of it. I’m talking consumer design. I’m talking how it functions and how the various parts connect. The folks at Medium are talking about that, too. From their about page (emphasis added by me):

Still, some things haven’t evolved as much as we would have expected. Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced. While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience.

Read more

Choose Your Fonts Wisely To Maximize Credibility

Comic Sans is the proverbial red-headed step child of typefaces. But beyond being derided for its cutesy looks and people’s penchant for using it in inappropriate communications, a recent “experiment” conducted by filmmaker Errol Morris in a piece he wrote for NYT.com shows that perception of the font can cause readers to do more than snicker. It may cause them to question your facts and affect whether they believe what you’ve written at all, he concludes in a follow-up.

We all know that we are influenced in many, many ways — many of which we remain blissfully unaware of. Could typefaces be one of them? Could the mere selection of a typeface influence us to believe one thing rather than another? Could typefaces work some unseen magic? Or malefaction?
Don’t get me wrong. The underlying truth of the sentence “Gold has an atomic number of 79” is not dependent on the typeface in which it is written. The sentence is true regardless of whether it is displayed in Helvetica, Georgia or even the much-maligned Comic Sans. But are we more inclined to believe that gold has an atomic number of 79 if we read it in Georgia, the typeface of The New York Times online, rather than in Helvetica?

To test this, he wrote a post in which a script changed the typeface of an identical passage and then asked readers (apparently more than 45,000 of them) to take a quiz asking whether they believed it to be true. The fonts tested were Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans and Trebuchet.
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“Scroll Kit” Tool For De-Templated Design Goes Live, Adds New Features

Synchronized perfectly with the start of the annual SXSW conference in Austin, Cody Bown and Kate Ray have announced improvements to their design tool, Scroll Kit.

You may remember we wrote about Scroll Kit back in October when it was in super-beta and you could only request invites. The tool allows you to step outside the templatized world of news design, where every headline is the same size and every photo is placed in the same spot no matter how important the story or good the art. The concept of customized design tailored to each story is the nexus of print design, but isn’t transferred to web design at all. Scroll Kit lets you easily take advantage of what the web has to offer in terms of design using drag ‘n drop tools. See a live demo if you want to play around with layers, colors, fonts and the other new features.  Read more

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