Better website design leads to superior results. More people are inclined to use a well-presented site, the customer experience improves, sales go up, and ultimately revenues increase. But what goes
into making a great site?
A look at three top news sites reveals some simple usability practices and design guidelines that can be easily applied to a wide range of websites. The success of a site
relates to a combination of factors including its appearance, functionality and content.
TechCrunch is a
blog focused on Web 2.0 startups that is popular among techies, startup execs, and venture capitalists. A mere mention on TechCrunch can lead to thousands of clicks or customers for new websites and
TechCrunch is a blog, not a newspaper, and the layout is chronological, with recent posts showing up first. The site incorporates some great examples of
successful usability and design:
- The text is in chunks. Text is broken up by pictures, with every article on the home page containing one, increasing usability.
site maximizes white space. It is straightforward and to the point, keeping the amount of text on the page to a minimum with a lot of white space.
- Elegant use is made of the color
green and easy-to-read fonts. The colors and font used aren’t too bold and are easy to follow, using sans-serif letters and green to match the company’s logo.
- There’s a clear call to action: Share. The site showcases its interest in Web 2.0. Social media icons are all over the place.
- Extensive links are littered throughout the
text. Hyperlinks are included and bolded to guide readers towards important company names.
The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post is an online news organization that covers a wide range of subjects. The site is dynamic, busy and colorful, sometimes bordering on the
outlandish. Its design integrates several tricks that maximize its usability:
- Navigation is consistent throughout the site. A menu bar
is visible throughout all sections; drop-down menus are also available, displaying different headlines to readers.
- The Search box is prominent, and sharing is encouraged. Sidebars
with recommendations for readers encourage sharing of popular articles.
- Multimedia plays an important role. Huffington makes use of slideshows and videos streamed via HuffPost
- Fonts vary in size, color and shape. The variety of font colors captures attention and allows readers to quickly differentiate between headline and article.
- Extensive imagery keeps readers engaged. A huge image takes up the real estate above the fold and gives a distinct look and feel to the site.
The New York Times
The New York Times is considered the gold standard of journalism, but is also known for charging its readers for content. The
success of the website and its paywall is partly due to its loyal community of readers, but it may also be due to optimized design:
- Content is well-organized. The home page has a
clean, low-key and professional look with easy access to the main stories without requiring scrolling.
- Text can be easily skimmed. The home page is divided into small chunks of text
that are easily digested.
- The layout facilitates readability. In keeping with the site’s understated design, the home page leaves a lot of white space and places one interesting
photograph on a timely theme in the middle of the page.
- Word order of headlines is purposeful. Significant words are likely to appear first, making article topics more obvious to text
As these popular news sites illustrate, content is formatted successfully for the web if it meets readers’ expectations
of structure, behavior, language and appearance. This means creating a design that is easy for the eye to scan, so that readers absorb information. Best practices include placing content above the
fold, using clear fonts, making good use of imagery, encouraging readers to scroll, motivating readers to click, organizing content well, and providing easy navigation.
adapting these guidelines to the needs of your own site, you can attract more readers, improve usability, optimize user experience and -- most significantly -- increase revenues.