Radically rethinking design

“2017 means rethinking every aspect of our designs: what they say, what they assume, and how they might better serve our audiences.”

In 2017, we will radically rethink our designs, and what they say, what they assume, and how they might better serve our audiences.

Let’s start with the headline. For example: Could an initial headline reflect visually that the story is evolving and contains incomplete information? Maybe a first report headline could look like this, with an empty outline?

k_emptymen

And then change in appearance to something like this, semi-filled, when we learn more information?

k_walk

And then change a third time when the story is complete?

k_plantflag

melody-kramerIn other words, how can we encode as much useful information as possible in a headline? Colors, fonts, shading, size, position, pictures, interactivity, history, metadata — basically all the design elements of information encoding across multiple dimensions. Which of those are most helpful to enhancing the headline? How can we test them?

For example, could we think of a headline as something that one can hover over, and immediately see source material? Or how many times the headline has changed? Or how other publications have written the same headline? (How does that help readers? How could that help publications?)

Let’s go broader. Why are headlines text? Could they be something else? What is the most important element at the top of a page? Is it five to fourteen words or is it something else entirely?

k_expletive

Could we have multiple headlines for the same piece? Maybe write one that reports verbatim what happened. Then one that interprets, particularly if what happens verbatim isn’t actually true. Then maybe one that sees what happens from a different point of view. Then one that uses a quote. Then one that uses numbers. Publish all of them alongside a story. (Other interesting existing examples: L.A. Times sharelines, WaPo’s Bandito, Bloomberg’s perpetual re-headlining and headline A/B testing, Optimizely and ChartBeat‘s headline A/B testing solutions, Naytev‘s social media multiple headline testing solution.) Are more dynamic, detailed, and numerous headlines on single articles effective ways for news organizations to distinguish themselves from generic fake news sites?

Could a headline be a comment? Could it be a visualization? What material does a reader need at the top of a page? Is it text? A push notification? Let’s pause there for a second. With newly designed headlines, translations to a push notification could get murky. Things like mouse-hover functionality won’t be accessible by mobile users.

We then have a constrained creativity problem, where constraints are embedded in various operating systems. It also suggests that headline writing may now span multiple jobs. Or maybe those all fall under one job, and it just means “headline writing” is now a bigger part of an editor’s job. And the skill set required is different.

Back to constraints within platforms limiting our creativity. Do we only think of mainly-text-based solutions because of the current nature of the platforms we share on? What if that changes? How could that change? A lot of current restrictions around headlines come from social and search restrictions and it would be interesting to think about that impact and how publications might bypass them with headline-like constructs (like Mic’s multimedia notifications or BuzzFeed’s emoji notifications.) They’re take the headline space and reworking it using images. What could we use besides images? In addition to images?

k_computer

Let’s think about this in terms of ads. Look at Facebook Ads. They localize headlines. Should news headlines be localized? What does that feel like?

What other kinds of information could be contained in the space that we currently call “headline”?

How might this help readers?

Now let’s repeat this experiment for first paragraphs, bylines, right rails, left rails, comment sections, landing pages, mastheads, verticals, investigative stories, push notifications, style section stories, homepages, metadata, what you measure, how you measure, and every other bit on your site. 2017 means rethinking every aspect of our designs: what they say, what they assume, and how they might better serve our audiences.

Thank you to Matt Crespi and Aram Zucker-Scharff for thinking through some of these ideas with me.

Melody Joy Kramer leads audience growth and development for the Wikimedia Foundation. Lisa Romero, whose work appears throughout this piece, is an illustrator based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Trushar Barot   API or die

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR