In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion in article page design pushing the envelope in terms of beautiful, rich, storytelling. Need I even mention the iconic article from The New York Times that kicked off the craze (here’s a clue – it sounds rather like “snow ball”) – which blended great editorial with beautiful digital artwork to tell the story of 16 skiers and snowboarders caught in an avalanche. Today, we see so many great examples of editors, artists and technologists collaborating to find creative ways to tell stories in a uniquely digital way.
Modern article pages are telling stories through big imagery, videos, animations, transitions, interactive elements and, of course, compelling editorial. These page designs are great for getting lost in a storyline and driving one-time visitors, but they don’t do a great job of creating a relationship with the reader or recommending the next article to read.
If that’s one extreme, the opposite is much worse. I’m referring to article pages that are trying too hard to ram the site’s features down your throat. They recommend so much content that it becomes meaningless; constantly trying to get you to sign up or follow. These sites, which are far too common these days, treat the story as secondary. They do not honour the reader or the content.
Once upon a time, a typical media site would spend 80 per cent of design and engineering resources on the homepage and just 20 per cent on the article pages. If you hadn’t noticed, those days are long gone. In today’s digital world, more and more visitors arrive at a site through the side door, namely via search, social or a referring link, and land directly on the article page. In fact, and many of us are already aware, research from analytics firm Parse.ly found that Facebook is now the top source of online news traffic. The social media sector as a whole accounts for 43 per cent of all referrals, meanwhile Google accounts for just 38 per cent.
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