Why the USA TODAY web redesign matters

Posted by Kerri Sorrell

Finally, someone has thrown traditional online news site design out the window. With its recent web overhaul, USA TODAY chucked it 114 glorious stories down.

In the past two weeks, USA TODAY has rolled out a comprehensive platform overhaul to celebrate its 30th anniversary, complete with print, web and mobile redesigns. Say what you will about the reputation of the organization and its content, but there’s a reason it’s the number two most circulated paper in the nation: its brand. With its latest revamp, USA TODAY has proved it’s winning the race in understanding online readers.

A few reasons why the web redesign is gold:

1. It puts visuals first. In typical USA TODAY fashion, photos reign supreme. Each section has a flashy slider, followed by grids of photos, a highlighted gallery and icon-driven navigation. Each component of the site is easily organized and given room to breathe. It’s refreshing.

Compare to the New York Times’ website. Yeesh.

2. Finally, a great user experience. Holy website, we’ve entered tablet world! USA TODAY has significantly reduced the amount of pages you’re visiting with a simple concept: layers. Instead of taking you to another page for every link, content pops to the front, leaving the main page shaded behind. When you’re done, simply click the “X” and find yourself back where you started. As Julia Moos of Poynter put it, “there is no ‘back’.”
3. Brand integration. Above all else, USA TODAY knows branding (no, I’m not talking about the big blue ball). Print, web, tablet and mobile are now integrated more fully than any other news organization, providing readers and users a comprehensive experience. No need to adjust to different platforms when they’re all based on the same concept.
4. It’s giving new life to a dead online advertising model – and making it better for the site, too. That 300×250 no longer the first thing you see. The new site provides a seamless canvas for advertisers to incorporate their ads within content. Pop outs that don’t disrupt page layout, sponsored sections and multimedia integration are just a few examples of what I’m sure we’ll see from a reimagined platform.
5. Details. If you’re still not convinced, dig a little deeper. It only takes one look at the staff index, video aggregation page, the search or cover flow to realize how much development went into this site.

What’s your opinion of the redesign? How do you think this will impact other news sites in the future?

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8 responses to “Why the USA TODAY web redesign matters

  1. I like USA Today’s redesign. The redesign caters to visuals and consequently caters to today’s increasingly visual society. Plus, the website’s streamlined design simplifies searching, an Internet must-do in today’s increasingly impatient society. Also, by using a sans serif font unlike The New York Times, USA Today subtly eases the strain of online reading.

    While USA Today’s website doesn’t mimic a traditional newspaper, I hope its modern design prompts other newspapers to likewise update their tired, traditional designs.

  2. Glad we have a knowledgeable redesigner on board with us, Kerri! Looking at USA Today’s site, I definitely agree that we’ll have to improve the visual elements on our site this year with more photos and graphics. So important!

  3. I think the USA Today redesign looks like an iPad app on a website and the paper. I think it helps make the user experience the same in all forms of the paper. For a practical design standpoint, it’s one unified look that helps it branding. It’s a similar choice to what USA Today did when they premiered, focusing on graphical elements.

    Personally, I like text heavy sites like the NY Times. In a way, that’s its brand. I think some papers will go the route of USA Today, and others will go their own way according to their brand. These type of media have become more interested in marketing their style of content delivery as much as their content. That makes some interesting ways of looking at the world.

  4. I completely agree with everything you said about USA Today! I have not looked at their website in quite sometime, but am not considering bookmarking it. (thanks for the blog-excited to keep checking the website out) They have cleaned the website up tremendously and have really put the audience in mind on their readership. The colors are simple, design is clear and to the point, and the headlines are their for the reader to decide what they want to learn.

    I feel that USA Todays team is ahead of the game and has a genius team behind the scenes setting the pace for others to follow. Other news sites will revolve in different ways, just as USA will keep doing, but with their creativity and brand already noted-it would be hard to compete with such a basic, but precise design.

  5. This is an interesting topic to blog about! I am impressed with their new design – it is most definitely more user friendly, and even just glancing through it just now, it makes me want to continue reading. It’s simple, easy to follow, and because “there is no ‘back’,” it’s easy to closeout quickly and immediately choose another article. In fact, this idea of there being “no back” is strangely similar to my favorite social networking site… (obviously Facebook).

  6. I really prefer the new design over the old design of USA Today. I think the heavy photo design and the improved usability are two huge improvements to the website. I am actually surprised that more sites haven’t shifted to it as quickly as USA Today has. I definitely prefer it over other sites that are focused more on text heavy design. I think the transition to mobile and tablet based usability is crucial, because that’s how more and more people are viewing the news.

    Really interesting and great job! Im glad you gave us the 5 reasons why it is awesome, because it definitely is!

  7. Pingback: Why the USA TODAY web redesign matters « Kerri Sorrell

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