Summer 2007

The New York Times

‘The NYT scores in storytelling charisma’

The online version of the Big Apple’s favourite broadsheet was launched on 3 April 2006. Original design by Razorfish; completed by the in-house Times team led by assistant managing editor Tom Bodkin and new design director Khoi Vihn.

The design team includes: Nick Ascheim, Tom Bodkin, Torben Brooks, Neil Chase, Cynthia Collins, Mike Cosentino, Eliot Pierce, Jonathan Landman, Rob Larson, Jun Lee, Richard Meislin, Nicole Mobley, Martin Nisenholtz, Justine Reese, Kristi Reilly, Barbara Rice, Ira Silberstein, Fiona Spruill, Caryn Tutino, Khoi Vihn, Sean Villafranca, Noreen Wu.

John O’Reilly: There is no silver bullet for newspapers making the transition from print to Web, but makes more sense than most. The amount of visual information on the page with images icons and ads is hallucinatory but the blue / grey / black copy fonts are simple hierarchical cues, the five-column structure makes sense and lends visual authority. Where the site scores is in the storytelling charisma of its interactive slideshows, commentaries and movies.

Adrian Shaughnessy: Online newspapers don’t have to look like this – as The Guardian’s site proves. Usability experts will have advised The New York Times to fill its homepage with countless links to articles. The result is a madhouse assemblage of typefaces, font sizes, colours, column widths and ad banners, that makes relaxed browsing – not to mention reading – impossible. You wouldn’t do this in print, so why is it acceptable online? Usability experts say that everything has to be one click away (and all online newspapers should have pages that download instantly). But who counts the clicks if we are quickly transported to worthwhile content?

The NYT site ignores the conventions of structured layout in favour of a kind of online free-for-all. But if information is conveyed with complete disregard for balance and hierarchy, then newspapers will thrash around for years trying to find a viable alternative to ink and woodchip.

Brendan Dawes: Is this really it for a newspaper online? A site that apes the design of its print cousin? Are there other ways, better ways, to read content on a computer screen? What The Guardian is doing with its ‘print your own newspaper’ (see Eye no. 61 vol. 16) is great, but let’s see if we can go a lot further with online news.

Anne Burdick: The New York Times site expands the contributions that a free press can make by providing more than news. My favourite section is the ‘Learning Network’. A true community resource, this provides lesson plans, historical documents and reference materials for parents, teachers and children, contributing to the public education that is essential to democracy.