For the past two years, one of the biggest news sites, The New York Times, has been working on a complete overhaul of their website architecture – finally. The pace of updating technology is relentless for any online platform, however, visiting the Times’ was like visiting Gramma in her wood-paneled living room. The immediate need for remodeling was always glaringly apparent.
The NYT 5 (an internal code-name) project released updated sections in staggered segments, but as with any design renovation updating the archaic into future tense, things got wonky. Watching the Times dust off their CMS backend, update web standards, adapt to a plethora of mobile devices all the while keeping up with reader expectations over the past 24 months has provided an all-you-can-eat buffet of form, function and construction reminders all designers, developers and web owners alike should completely binge ingest.
- Always put reader engagement first.
Readers take their online experience with your website personally – especially media outlets. The Times eliminated page breaks allowing readers to continuously scroll as well as formatting their backend architecture to be easily accessed on all mobile devices. Small adjustments deepening engagement makes a huge impact on reader experience.
- Think “back to the future” for architectural design.
The flux capacitor of your site, both back and front end, should have technological trends, future user use and expectations for the next two to five years in mind. Main architectural framework should be created allowing future upgrades, renovations and restructuring to be done with easy, compatibility and logic.
- Design and build around business goals rather than focus on backend data packaging. How does your reader consume your product? Structure design should evolve around how and why your reader uses your product, services and information, not what is easiest for behind-the-scenes templates, CSS and code. The Times’ multimedia-rich publication of Snow Fall did just that. Snow Fall gave readers interactive maps, intense videos, personal portrait photographs and an immense story, all of which created an incredibly personal and exciting online experience with the real focus on the front of the house versus backend priorities.
The Times’ NYT 5 Project is a milestone. Responsive design is imperative in creating architecture in today’s mass media data-infused future in order to respond to the ever-evolving reader habits and expectations.