Field Notes: Website (Mother Jones)

Echoing the minimalist aesthetic of its print counterpart, the Mother Jones website goes for a stylish yet dignified feel. The first aspect you’ll immediately recognize is liberal amount of white space used throughout the pages. This is especially evident in the flag at the top of the page. The Mother Jones logo is aligned left, with only a subtle subscription shill over to the right taking up the rest of the space on the banner. With space such as this often being valuable real-estate for ads on a variety of other websites, it says a lot about Mother Jones that they are willing to leave this area empty.

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Just like the magazine, Mother Jones keeps their website print heavy, with the use of images being sparse compared to other sites. Print is largely kept black, with only small splashes of color being incorporated into any of the menu items or navigation for the site. Every section of the site is delineated by a small colored horizontal line (with the exception of the ‘Subscription’ and ‘donate’ sections, which are highlighted by their red type.) As a non-profit magazine, Mother Jones is sure to make their subscription and donation areas very prevalent throughout the site. As you scroll down on the homepage, it is evident that each section’s header is in red type, allowing the viewer to not get lost in a sea of black type when looking for a particular section.

Although Mother Jones’ website does follow the magazine’s lead in many visual aspects, it doesn’t follow suit with every element. One surprising change is that body copy on the website is all shown in a sans-serif font (see below). Although Mother Jones does use sans-serif fonts for some text elements in the magazine, body copy is exclusively in serif font. The website, on the other hand, flips that dynamic entirely, with headlines in serif-font, but the body copy almost exclusively sans-serif.

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When first visiting the site, “Top Stories” and “Mojo Blogs” are the most prominent sections seen. These areas are always rotating stories, giving daily visitors new links to click on a daily basis. The “Top Stories” section is also highlighted by a rotating slideshow, one of the few prominent pictorial elements on the site.

The rest of the sections fall into a three column grid, with the left and center columns primarily used to highlight assorted content from the various sections. The right column contains elements such as banner ads, donation links, and social media roundups, as well as aggregations of their most read and most active stories.

Picture 5One particularly interesting aspect of the site is the very prominent “Contributors” section of the website (see left). It’s very prominently located smack in the middle of the page just a few clicks of the scroll-wheel down from the top of the homepage. It’s clear that Mother Jones is proud of its contributors, who are often very well-regarded and accomplished writers in their field. This is also a sure-sign that many Mother Jones readers like to keep tabs on their favorite writers and contributors. This section of the homepage allows any reader on the site to instantly see if their favorite journalist has recently published anything new.

Once you go a little deeper into the site, web ads become slighly more prominent, but still remain very modest by normal website standards. The page below, from the “Photojournalism” section of the website, features a banner ad right next to the Mother Jones logo (as I mentioned earlier, this ad space wasn’t present on the homepage). Each section of the site follows a format similar to what is pictured below: the lead story gets a 300 x 225 px featured image, with subsequent stories following below with much smaller thumbnails.

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Subscribe and donation pages on the Mother Jones site are completely devoid of ads (see below). They put the online forms front and center, with no distractions whatsoever on the page aside from the Mother Jones logo. Even the navigation bar disappears from the page, allowing the viewer no distractions as they make their donation or pay for a subscription.

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Ultimately, the Mother Jones website stays true to the mission and aesthetic of the magazine. This website comes across as a home for serious journalism, one which puts a premium on the printed word rather than dazzling you with a menagerie of images. Even with its differences in serif vs. sans-serif font choices, the site doesn’t deviate far from the magazine. This rings true, unfortunately, with its lack of video content as well. Although they have a “photo essay” section which does a serviceable job in moving away from the dominance of words on the site, content that is a bit more dynamic and interactive could be a welcome change for Mother Jones.

Nick DeSantis