Facebook is testing out a serif typeface for headlines in its newsfeed. When contacted, a Facebook spokesperson was noncommittal, calling the typeface change “a small design test.”
Not much news there, right? Mark Wilson, the man who wrote the post for Fast Company, admits that Facebook often makes these sorts of A/B tests to “all sorts of design updates across their user base.” So it’s quite possible that the serif typeface – a favorite of the newspaper industry for body copy – won’t stick. But when you’re talking about a 900 pound gorilla like Facebook, any change, no matter how minute, is worth tracking. In this case, the serif typeface experiment comes in the context of other changes in Facebook. Wilson also reported that Facebook has recently “reweighted its algorithms to recognize higher quality stories and showcase more news to its users.” He also suggested, as a conspiracy theory, that if Facebook continues to play friendly towards news organizations, those organizations might in turn begin suckling at the Facebook teat, counting on it to generate revenue streams.
This in turn might have implications on how news companies organize themselves. Does a Facebook friendly/dependent news company categorize their stories differently? Do they format their stories differently? What becomes of their print editions?
Lizzie Hart (maybe some of you know her), presentation director for the DO, goes through the paper’s redesign, which took effect at the start of this term. It’s not comprehensive, but it highlights some of the bigger changes that were made and provides side-by-side visual comparisons. Definitely click the link to check out the story, if only for the side-by-side views.
It’s close to home. We have a newspaper redesign right in our midst, giving us the perfect opportunity to consider and judge the decisions that were made in the redesign and, because of the window into the process this article gives, the rationale behind those decisions. I want to highlight something Hart said near the end of the article: “Overall, we have been generally pleased in that we accomplished our two main goals of getting more voices into the paper and creating more entry points.” Now as journalism students, I’m sure none of us are satisfied when someone compliments their own work – and I don’t say that to be mean to Ms. Hart. Rather, I highlighted this quote to give us some parameters by which we might judge the redesign. How did the DO staff succeed in accomplishing these two main goals? Where did they fall short?