Field Notes: New York Time Website

The New York Times has a robust online presence. As far as newsgathering and dissemination goes, The Times has been a leader in the digital world. It’s interesting to think about how they have done in terms of design though.

A quick examination of the “Front Page” and The New York Times’ website has a lot of things going for it. The nameplate, like other students have mentioned for their papers, remains the same. This does create a familiarity and brand across the digital and paper platforms. Stepping away from the site, after using it quite a bit without really focusing on the design, I notice that it’s very simple. The background is white, the headlines are blue, and everything else is pretty much black. The typeface is all Georgia, mostly the same size.

The strength of the design doesn’t come from elegance, but instead, interactivity. The site is intuitive. I’m not left wondering if something is clickable or expandable or searchable. Underlining links is a simple way to help create understanding. The rest of the elements remaining staid and the same helps to make it easy to navigate the site. The Times has done a lot with the site, and the content is constantly changing, but I never visit the site and find myself having a tough time knowing where to start or what I’m looking at. The main bars and all of the navigation bars and menus don’t change or surprise much at all.

This is successful because of hierarchy. Looking back to the shot of the homepage, it uses a lot of the principles that The Guardian designers used in the video Chris showed in class. You can see based on the size and placement on the page, which stories have been given prominence. Your eye is naturally drawn to them. The secondary pages work identically. Each behaves as a tiny homepage, and that creates unity and organization across the pages of the website too.

I’m sometimes left wishing for a bit more creativity in the design, but The Times is very aware, I think, of the decisions that they are making in keeping things crisp, simple and consistent. Their choices for color and typography also match that attitude, and are arguably some of the best choices for onscreen viewing. I find Georgia incredibly pleasing to the eye.

I think that the site matches the paper version of The New York Times very nicely. They are actually quite different to experience. The site doesn’t mimic the paper visually much at all. There are some familiar flags and references, and many of the stories themselves, the words, are identical. It seems that The Times is willing to take an entirely different approach to presentation, though, and that’s commendable.

And still, The New York Times seems to stick to its guns when it comes to principles. The web design is guided just as much by utility as the paper iteration.