New York Times redesigns its site (2006)

In a note to readers from Leonard Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, the editor explains some of the reasons behind the design and what the organization hopes to accomplish:

Our goal when we set out to redesign The Times Web site more than a year ago was to make experiencing The New York Times online simpler and more useful. We hope you conclude that we have done that on the new pages appearing for the first time this month.

We have expanded the page to take advantage of the larger monitors now used by the vast majority of our readers. We’ve improved the navigation throughout the site so that no matter what page you land on, you can easily dig deeper into other sections or use our multimedia.

We also wanted to give our readers a greater voice and sprinkle a little more serendipity around the site by providing prominent links to a list of most e-mailed and blogged articles, most searched for information and popular movies. A new tab at the top of the page takes you directly to all our most popular features.

At first glance, there seems to be little that is new or innovative about the Times’ new look. The site is being place on a wider sheet, as Apcar says, because users have wider monitors. That may take some getting used to on the part of those of us who still don’t have a wide screen on every computer that we use.

What is likely to get a lot of comment in the reduction in the size of the type used for both headlines and body type. Smaller type is more difficult to read, but this difficulty may be mitigated somewhat by the increased amount of white space the site is using around all of its type.

The Times has also promised a more flexible way to personalize pages, but this function is not operative.

Little seems to have changed on the inside pages except for the change in type size and font. The Times tends to drown its headlines and body copy in a swirl of advertisements, making the reader work to find them. Then it requires that the readers follow the copy around inserts that occur on both sides of the copy — all of which give the feeling that graphically, the text of the story has little integrity and can be violated at will.

One of the disappointments with what the Times has done is the clinging to the old school thinking that “multimedia” is something different and apart from the regular reporting that the Times does. The site has a separate section for its “multimmedia” presentations. Readers might not understand what multimedia means and might wonder why it is something separate.

I believe that it would be far better for the Times (and other web sites) to integrate their various reporting methods into packages that would be convenient for the readers. Thus, a story about Iraq would contain not only the text of the story but also the slideshow, video, graphics and whatever else the Times might have to inform the reader.

Maybe by the next redesign (the last one occurred five years ago), the Times editors will have caught on that should not be assigning one of the true strengths of the web to the ghetto of “multimedia.”

Jim Stovall (Posted April 3, 2006)

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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