In my job, that must be the oddest phrase I deal with daily.
Technically a newspaper isn’t a website and therefore has no homepage. So we focus on it being a digital representation of a (or several) newspaper(s) online.
For the most part, I still feel like an ignorant minor when it comes to this game.
Trying to design and implement news in a focused way, coming from 11 publications is really quite impossible. It is, however, highly attemptable.
I recently had a long conversation about our problems in developing an updated homepage with one of our photographers Andy Shupe.
Okay, let me back-track.
About three months ago the online department set up several goals for a planned redesign of nwaonline.com.
At the top of this list we had “interactive top story” element on the homepage. This is the item you see on most news websites. (Examples: 4029tv.com, nwahomepage.com, 5newsonline.com, arkansasonline.com, etc. etc.)
It’s a way to add dynamic, scrolling content that’s both eye-catching and interactive. Having interactive elements is good for website real estate because it allows more content to fit into one spot, saving space for other elements on the page. It’s also pretty. The element is good for the reader because they can see where the “action” is on the site and feel in control of which item is currently sitting in front of them (by clicking a number or hovering over a navigation element).
But here’s the kicker.
You simply can’t get authentic, attractive art that represents true events (re: journalism photos) in an organized manner suitable for a four-by-three box that rotates like a slideshow.
It’d be a gimmick for our local news coverage. We’d be producing art for art’s sake rather than for the news value. We’d be making graphics for crime stories (chalk outline of body), holiday stories (four leaf clover) and so on.
Even if we could get enough photos each day to have one for each of our five top stories we’d still be stuck with a problem of landscape versus portrait. And we take a lot more landscape photos. So the dimensions of this dynamic homepage element would be radical and always changing.
As Andy put it to me, it’s probably impossible to change something photographers have been doing for 150 years.
And it would be difficult to convince editors and page designers that we needed to have more interactive graphics.
What we need is honest-to-god hierarchy in the news. Top story, other stories, the photo that represents the Northwest Arkansas today.
So we dropped the idea of going dynamic and we’re running with the idea of displaying a story’s importance based on larger type, placement and reducing the size of surrounding stories to give that top story visual dominance.
And I really freakin’ can’t wait to introduce it.