Field Notes | The Economist | Website

The Economist’s website uses the same nameplate as the magazine, a simple way to create a unified  brand identity and link the print and web products. Other connections between the two products include the style of illustrations, the use of language and the color palette. Editors and designers write short, clever headlines rather than straightforward ones. For example, a story about Sudan and South Sudan is titled “Giving Divorce a Bad Name.” Much like in the magazine, color helps create hierarchy on the website. Short phrases in red letters above headlines let visitors know what the content of the story will be so they can quickly find what interests them. The treatment of  some photographs, as pictured below, also resembles the print publication.

Although the Economist’s website maintains much of the style and tone of the print product, it doesn’t seem to be organized as well. When I first visited The Economist’s website, I felt overwhelmed. There is so much text treated in the same way that the site lacks a clear hierarchy of information. I didn’t know where to start. In the magazine, however, I always know exactly how to find the information I want and how to proceed through a page or section. I found the navigation to be especially overwhelming visually. The vertical rules between section names, featured stories and other buttons don’t quite line up. This makes the information seem disorganized and confusing, in contrast to the print publication’s extremely well-organized table of contents. Using a standard spacing or different grid to organize this information would make the site easier to navigate and more appealing.

In addition, The list of “Featured” stories just below the section names seem strange. The website could simply feature the stories in the gallery with rotating images, rather than list them as featured. Visitors should know what content is the most important simply by looking at how stories are arranged and placed .

The grid itself allows for flexibility within a clear, basic structure. Nevertheless, the way stories are organized within the grid on the home page is not always logical. For example, in the image below, I am not sure why the story about dental x-rays is separated from the stories in the larger center column and put in a column with blogs and audio. It seems like the column should be reserved just for blogs and audio, rather than mixing that content with regular stories. Stories are grouped in a more logical way on second-tier pages, though.

Interactive content and multimedia serve as interesting storytelling possibilities throughout the site. Sometimes, such content is underplayed though. For instance, at first glance, I mistook the poll below for an advertisement.

Using images to accompany  multimedia might attract more visitors to interact with this type of content.

Overall, The Economist website’s design is not as streamlined as the print product, although it is still packed with important, insightful content.


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