Reuters Re-Design Wins By Respecting the Reader and the Story

Reuters Article Preview

This is a preview of the default article template for the new Reuters site. Notice the wide margins and clean design.

Reuters is the latest big media company to re-imagine how stories should be presented online, debuting Tuesday a preview of its upcoming re-design.

Like the New York Times‘ preview, Reuters is big on white space, with a wide column for news. Reuters, however, goes even further than most – getting rid of the new trend toward a river of stories on the right rail. It’s just story all the way down the stream.

There’s a lead big image – though not as large as the Times‘s. There’s a clever X in the corner, which returns you to the section front page that the story is from (e.g. if you come into a story from a link or from the Reuters homepage, you aren’t returned there – you are taken to the section the story is in.)

There’s no sidebars in the story; there’s wide margins – compare this to the Washington Post, where the middle portion of a story is squeezed between a long left sidebar in the story body and an imposing right rail – so that the middle of the story resembles a Victorian woman in an overly tight corset. (It’s uncomfortable for the subject and the viewer.)

Washington Post Article view

Notice how narrow the story channel gets in this Washington Post story.

The stories load wickedly fast and there seems to be some pre-loading going on, as the lead story on the homepage loads faster than one further down the page. The main portion of the article – the image and the text — load very fast, while the other elements (such as the subdued share buttons) load asynchronously. You’ll also notice that after a few seconds, there’s more that loads underneath the story.

But perhaps most intriguingly, you’ll see that the horizontal slider on your browser moves down after a couple of seconds as more things load ABOVE the story you are looking at. What’s up there is the same thing you’ll see if you close the story – the section homepage. It’s not clear if readers will actually learn or want to scroll upwards, but it’s a very clever experiment with the notion of the stream. The story is clean and uncluttered, but there’s more to explore if you want.

I have a few reservations. I think there’s too much excerpting going on on homepages – I’ve seen a recent study showing that excerpts decrease reader click-through rates to stories.

The body font is a light gray I don’t love and the typesizes should all be bigger – especially the caption text which is nearly unreadable. I’m not in love with the selection of stories that show up after the post, but they aren’t awful. For those links, I think the images ought to go on the left side, before the headline, rather than on the right after them.

But, it is after all, a preview. And given that it’s built on an API outputting JSON, it should be pretty simple to experiment.

And, as an experiment goes, it’s a great one.

It respects readers. There’s no annoying fly-out of a “recommended” story. The design says that the reader’s attention on the story is primary and that relationship is not to be meddled with. There’s no unnecessary, page-viewing pumping pagination. There’s not many sites on the net that are as respectful of the writer’s story and the reader’s attention.

I hope readers respond well to it and other such layouts. If your site’s stories are good – respect that and give readers the chance to be immersed.

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