I can’t lie, I find the web design of major content and news sites to be extremely interesting. USAToday.com has made their new website redesign public through a BETA address in the last week as all of their delivery methods have undergone a facelift, including the logo and newspaper.
The website’s new look is clearly aimed to be a more visual and flow based experience, not the standard screen, click and load. Tablet experiences like the iPad have started to heavily influence desktop design in the last year and USA Today has embraced it at a fantastic level.
USA Today sites registered 38.7 million visitors in August 2012, up 48% from 26.1 million a year ago. That amount of users and growth is part of what I like about redesign of this magnitude. There is a lot of user data to consider as you define the strategy in your redesign and there is also a lot of audience to give feedback when you go live.
The Website Redesign Wins
In moving around the new design I’m really struck by the gravity of the visuals. In both size and quantity, the site has become almost free of text and seems like a very cohesive media experience. While the navigation and color schemes of the sections remain intact, the layout breaks away from the normal news site and definitely feels like a breath of fresh air.
The site even goes as far to allow controls over certain portions of content so you can change from a grid display to a list display of stories.
It’s Still All About Advertising
While the new design brings more visual real estate to the content, advertising seems to have a bigger and bolder offering. Upon visiting the Travel section of the new design, I was met with this giant ad. Wow.
My first thought was “that’s an ad”, but my second thought was that it was visually appealing. I’ll be interested to see how these ads perform and if they maintain a higher level of design quality. Advertisers have to be excited about that kind of real estate and visual impact.
In closing, I think the approach to break the mold and be a bit bolder is really done well. I wasn’t expecting this big of a shift for sure so maybe much of my excitement is due to the shock, time will tell.
Kudos to USA Today for jumping off, I’ll be watching to see where they land.