The web is no longer a place for news organizations to dump text and expect their audience to care. News websites should be designed clearly and give folks what they want as quickly as possible; stories should be well written and reported, as well as use creative ways to explore the covered topic whenever possible.
Luckily, newsrooms are up to the challenge. This year saw website redesigns for three major news organizations and the launch of new ones. But 2015 wont just be about gorgeous websites and nifty graphics. In 2015, newsrooms will need to focus on creating secure products with engaging content that blends text, data, and graphics seamlessly.
It’s crazy that most newsrooms are still using plain, old HTTP instead of HTTPS for their websites. HTTP is insecure and easy to manipulate maliciously. As Google begins treating HTTPS-enabled sites with better PageRank, you better believe more news organizations are going to want a secure page.
The New York Times’ code and development blog recently sounded the alarm for more newsrooms to enable HTTPS, while Mozilla, the EFF and others started Let’s Encrypt — a certificate authority that aims to make setting up HTTPS as easy as possible by summer 2015.
Currently, HTTPS is still a tough feature to implement, but it’s far from not impossible. The Marshall Project, The California Sunday Magazine, The Intercept, and the Center for Investigative Reporting (my employer) already have.
As more newsrooms experiment with presentation and data-driven interactive features, there’s a trend to move them into entirely foreign designs or entirely different domains (apps.newsorg.com vs. www.newsorg.com). While much of this is to avoid the technical contraints of newsrooms’ content management systems or to experiment with new technologies, it often doesn’t mesh into the workflows of web producers or the copy desk.
On top of that, there’s often a lot of effort required to build large, blowout projects with data and graphics that could have easily nestled themselves within a typical story framework.
For 2015, look for small interactive features that enhance stories. ProPublica recently wrote a story on how U.S. telecom providers add tracking numbers to their users’ web activity. They included a small tool that allowed users to see if they were being tracked. It was small, engaging, and made a great story even better.
Newsrooms are getting better at building web products and it shows. There was plethora of great work from small and big news organizations alike this year. We’re only getting better at this and 2015 will show just how good we are at truly building digital-native newsrooms.
Aaron Williams is a news applications developer for the Center for Investigative Reporting.