The "before" look.
As you've noticed, we've spruced up the homepage.
Our aim was to make it easier to skim the latest stories without having to click around to see what's happening in your town.
We received some love for the changes, but we also got some less-than loving remarks about it.
One reader wrote:
I have to scroll down to see anything other than the slide show. (that's annoying, when I just want to take a quick peek at what's going on / new)
I liked having the what's new / what's popular as a list of headlines I could easily scan. Now I have to scroll down, scroll down, scroll down. And I don't like having the first few sentences of the story. If I want to read any of the story I'll click it, I don't like having to scroll through the beginnings of all those articles, none of which may interest me.
To briefly address a couple of her points: We believe that most readers would rather do more scrolling and less clicking, and we've maintained the grid of latest stories by category on the right side of the screen.
And to get more narrative: Before we had designed TheDigitel homepage with a very anti-scrolling mentality. Everything was jammed up high. But with iPads, multi-touch trackpads, scroll wheels, and more; we've decided to stop hating the scrolling.
Now readers open the homepage and (thanks to some extra whitespace) have an opportunity recline and see the greatest stories in the slideshow, they can then scroll down just a little and on the right you can see the latest in each section on the right side of the screen (this was the old grid of stories) and on the left is the biggest change: A blog-like list of the latest stories.
To be clear this is still a work in progress, but we think this layout is big step in the right direction.
We're still thinking about axing the brief story excerpts on the left, but for now I like them as I don't think a headline is always enough info for a reader to tell if a story is worth a click, and sometimes our posts are just too short to click over for. It could be that on very short posts you'll see the teaser and on the longer ones you won't.
But, back to the decision to adopt the blog-like list of stories: Most of the folks who "get" good news front page design are, unsurprisingly, tech blogs. Those sites often include a list of recently published stories like we have in our sprucing up.
Two examples would be the more blog-like Engadget and then the more news-like site of Ars Technica. In fact Ars Technica has been around for more than 10 years and has progressively moved away from a newspaper-style design to more of a blog-like design.
Even Wired.com has adopted this logic to an extent, although their front page is particularly jumbled.
Now this sort of others-do-it-too logic only goes so far, I'll argue the reason why pushing aside our grid of stories for a blog-like list is good is because the Web is all about being current. Thus giving amble space to list the most recently published stories is a natural fit.
Also, the emphasis on the story grid created some real problems for us. We needed to constantly find a story for the Food or Features block, even if there wasn't really anything interesting -- and if we found two interesting food stories we couldn't plug both without prematurely dismissing the first.
The grid caused us to promote too few good stories and too many not-so-great stories.
We're still waiting to see if the new design results in more activity by readers, but that will take a couple weeks. So far, though, the early results are promising.
And this design, like all the designs before is a work in progress and we're listening and will be improving this one in the coming days, weeks, and months.