Wick Communications

Redesigns go beyond newspapers

In Design on May 27, 2011 at 8:56 am

I was fascinated last week by some changes at Google News. Actually, that’s not true. To my eye, the changes are incremental and just mean I have to get used to a subtly different look. More to the point, I was fascinated to find the premier search engine and the leader of online delivery acting much like the newspapers with which I’m familiar.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, newspapers that could afford to do so hired consultants to tell them they needed to redesign their pages. Every five years or so, editors and publishers would get the itch to tweak fonts, packaging ideas, paper size and everything else. It has never been science, though sometimes those who claim to know present it as a sort of science, speaking in hushed tones about the way the eye travels down the page and so forth.

Well, I’ve begun to notice that our favorite Web sites behave similarly and for similar reasons. A bunch of guys get in a room, perhaps armed with data on the way users interact with the site, and decide that things must change. Google obviously puts a lot of thought into their changes. Most of them are designed to make the experience easier for readers. Sound familiar? …

Other times, change seems to take place simply for the sake of change. This is much more common and sort of drives me crazy – in newspapers and Web portals. For instance, the WordPress platform I use for this blog recently changed in ways that seem solely designed to bug me. I was familiar with the look of the old link button. I didn’t know I needed new icons or to find them on the screen again. Mailchimp, which I use to send out the e-mail pushes most of you receive, seems to change every week. I sort of hate it.

If you don’t spend much time on Google News, I suggest you spend a few minutes with it. You can customize it to deliver things that interest you – or things you cover in your newspaper.

Clay

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