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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

To say that a website is responsively designed usually means that it responds to the width of the screen or browser window it’s being displayed in — looking different on a phone than on a 27-inch monitor, for example. But width isn’t the only data point a smart web designer can respond to.

As detailed in this SND Q&A, The Verge decided to use another piece of information — the operating system a reader is using — to provide a different presentation of a story to iOS, Windows, or Android users. Header images and pullquotes were designed to match the operating system in use. And given that the topic of the story was the intense attachment people feel to their favorite technology platforms, it wasn’t even particularly gimmicky. Developer Guillermo Esteves:

Since this particular piece was about “Fanboys,” I suggested to James that instead of being able to toggle layouts with a button, we simply detect the reader’s platform and style it accordingly. I felt that styling the piece after the reader’s platform was a reflection of the “fanboy” mentality of seeing what they want to see and wanting validation for their choice of platform. We also felt it was important to not even mention the fact that we had multiple designs, and just let the readers figure it out in the comments.

One other noteworthy quote, from designer James Chae, matches up with my general perception that Verge feature treatments have gotten a little less frenetic over time:

One thing I’m proud of is that our feature designs have a lot of respect for the text column. Our designs used to be more scattered and we’ve worked hard to exercise some restraint. Chromeless or fullscreen features are a challenge because you need to really capture the readers attention and time. If you create the right mood and encourage readers to actually read, they will stay.

— Joshua Benton
                                   
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Mark Coddington    July 11, 2014
Plus: Google and censorship, The Wall Street Journal turns 125, and the rest of this week’s news about journalism and tech.
  • Jack Schofield

    The presentation of that feature was so awful I hit the back button and didn’t bother reading it. If that’s “a little less frenetic” then I don’t want to see Verge at its worst.

    I read the story in the end, on Instapaper after a friend tweeted it:
    https://twitter.com/wendyg/status/428520280093257728

    In response to my comment, @seatrout replied:
    “Yes, I did see the unbearably crappy format of the original. Then I found the one for ppl who like reading.”