Design Variation

The New York Times’ Snow Fall article continues to be talked about online and at meetups.

The Guardian had their own take on the style with Firestorm and usvsth3m have even produced a parody (the ultimate compliment) with Icefail.

Snow Fall and Firestorm are meant to be immersive experiences. Regardless of whether their goal is wholly achieved, they do show the power of considering design in tandem with content.

What’s interesting is actually not whether their particular mix of longform text, full-screen imagery and HD video is exactly right but instead how they highlight that web content as a whole is too uniform.

On most websites, whether newspapers or otherwise, pages carry the same basic design styles such as page furniture, fonts and basic layouts. This suits brand owners - who want recognisability and trust, information architects - who want navigability through the site and developers - who want content consistency.

The site which most consistently bucks this trend is The Verge, which regularly produces feature articles each with their own unique designs.

According to this Reddit AMA with the product team, this is handled in the CMS by letting each page include its own CSS snippets. There can then be dramatic design variation between articles, even though they are all still held in a central repository.

This is an impressive technological achievement which gives The Verge a big advantage in a competitive media environment. Design variation is part of their process, not a collection of one-offs.

It will be interesting to see what impact Snow Fall continues to have and how media outlets respond to the challenge of consistently matching their designs to their content.

comments powered by Disqus