Today the NYT released their redesign to all employees. It looks very much like their redesign prototype from earlier this year.
I remember when I saw the prototype. “Impressive,” I thought, here’s a company over a century and a half old practicing user-centered design techniques to rethink their site. With a semi-public prototype release, I assumed they were collecting both qualitative and quantitative analytics: user-testing and tracking data. According to Poynter, the public release is expected in “early 2014”.
According to a news release on Poynter.org, the redesign is available to all employees behind their firewall. However in the message to all employees, the authors wrote:
This employee preview includes nearly all of the same elements found on the article prototype we made available earlier this year, but rendered on an entirely new page serving platform which is both faster and dynamic.
Questions & Critque
This made me question the purpose of the prototype:
- Did they collect analytics and feedback on the prototype?
- If they did collect analytics on the prototype, why didn’t much change? Was everything perfect the first time? Did they ever intend to make any changes?
- Was the prototype a proof of concept for stakeholders?
- Was the prototype more of a service for the engineering teams to help understand what to build?
- Does the prototype serve to ease the discomfort of those in an industry general adverse to change?
The article pages are beautiful and keep to the spirit of the New York Times publication and brand while bringing it to actual modernity to digital content. I expected to see more change on the homepage: larger images and a layout closer to the modern web and further from 18th-century newspapers.
But, what they have done is impressive. This company, a content-not-software, company, mind you had their work cut out for them. They had to update a potentially 8-year-old codebase with conservative stakeholders, draining readership, work with short staffs, all while keeping the 24-hour news cycle moving. Not an easy task.
Activity in the Community
It’s been wonderful to see more news organizations adopting experience and user-centered design tools and techniques. Here are a few other examples from the last few weeks:
Experience Design Adoption
The author in the PBS article refers to prototyping as something “NASA” does for the Mars Rover and people who build software as “Silicon Valley Whiz Kids”.
- How can we make Experience Design techniques adoptable to those who are not software people?Some argue we should not to keep our jobs in high demand–I disagree. Also check out Jeff Lawson’s talk on Software People.
- How can news organizations without the resources, but with the desire, of the New York Times, to modernize their newsrooms? Some argue that we should bide our time and let new organizations and media outlets replace the old. However, many out there want to change but are experts in reporting and content, not products development.