Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Do you trust the news, or do you trust your news? In the U.S., there’s a huge gap between the two
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Feb. 25, 2014, 3:05 p.m.
LINK: www.theatlantic.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   February 25, 2014

I appreciate Rob Meyer writing this post so I didn’t have to: It seems as though every new news site redesign has a common thread: stories presented as uniform rectangles with a text overlay. (Rob’s piece is really about the boxiness, but the text overlay trend is also approaching Defcon 3.) Bloomberg View’s redesign today prompted it, but there are plenty of others: NBC News, MSNBC, Gothamist, the top of The Verge, the “premium” version of The Dallas Morning News, Vocativ, Digg, Digiday, the less-than-loved new Slate, and more.

bloomberg-view-grid

It’s not that boxes are new or anything — the entire web is literally built on them. But it’s a clear trend and, I think at least, a slightly dispiriting one. At the same time we’re seeing increased creativity in article page design, we’re seeing a sort of clotted sameness descend upon front pages and section fronts. It encourages the reader to see everything as just another identical widget of content, I fear. And it, in some cases, limits how much text or other cues one can add to tease a story to the reader. Personally, I find them too scannable and too easily ignorable.

Rob suggests responsive design may be a cause; Ethan Marcotte, the guy who, ya know, invented responsive design says no. Far be it from me to dispute Ethan, but I think responsive has generally led to a regularization of front page chunks in order for them to reflow well on phones. And it fits with the cards metaphor we’re seeing everywhere. (Thanks, Pinterest.) But I think the bigger culprit here is the rise of tablets — both because web designers are taking cues from tablet apps and because tablet traffic is growing as a share of total traffic. What does tablet design prize? Big, tappable areas. It’s a kind of buttonization.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 35,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Do you trust the news, or do you trust your news? In the U.S., there’s a huge gap between the two
Plus: A bill to outlaw fake news in the Philippines, and the question of whether real news outlets should cover fake news.
Vox’s healthcare newsletter (with ads sold out) is filling a role beyond “articles on the Internet”
“I’m keeping in mind that there are actually people reading these stories who are relying on us for information.”
News apps are making a comeback. More young Americans are paying for news. 2017 is weird.
The Reuters Institute’s annual report on digital news contains some surprises.