Today, the New York Times launched its site redesign, announced by a prominent editor’s note on the homepage. There’s a few lessons for bloggers to learn from the redesign, as well as some evidence that the Times itself has been learning from bloggers.
The most prominent change is the new wide page layout, which makes great use of the expanded screen real estate that serious web geeks have available on their displays. A lot has been written about these wider pages recently, but many of the first sites to make smart use of this kind of design have been Movable Type-powered blogs like Gawker Media’s Sploid, Paul Scrivens’ Whitespace, Kevin Cornell’s Bearskinrug, Jason Santa Maria’s blog and Khoi Vin’s Subtraction. The additional space on the page lets the Times use large and valuable ad units online without compromising the amount of editorial information displayed.
And speaking of Khoi, one might think that, having been recently named Design Director of the Times, he’d been guiding the effort behind this redesign. But, as the editor’s note makes clear, the project has been underway for a year, and Khoi offers up some details on what the process and team look like.
But the blog influence on the Times isn’t just limited to issues like screen real estate or the team behind the scenes, it’s visible in the aesthetic and the content of the new site as well. Like the recent redesign of New York Magazine (spearheaded by longtime bloggers), which has frequently been described as looking blog-like. There’s a clear, open aesthetic, with lots of white space and a link-rich footer to help guide you around the site. The pervasive influence of blog design is a bit part of the reason we’re so excited about efforts like The Style Contest, because great blog designers don’t just influence blogs, they influence the web as a whole.
The content of the new site shows how important blogs are to the Times web team, as well. Tabs at the top make blog-friendly content like most popular stories and videos easily accessible. And there’s a new section listing the most blogged stories on the site. Deeper in the site, the venerable Newsroom Navigator has been updated. The page (as its address reveals) used to be called the Cybertimes Navigator, and has long offered a set of links to web resources that the Times’ own reporters would find useful. As it sheds the dated “Cyber-” prefix, it’s also been moved into the 21st century with a Blogs 101 list.
There will doubtless be more new features discovered as the design is explored by readers, and some inevitable back-and-forth about individual design decisions. But, despite the controversies and criticisms that many lob at the Times, it’s uniquely influential in the print media space. Here’s hoping that connecting a little closer to its fans and foes in the blogosphere can help it retain and even expand that influence online.