The way we get the news has changed dramatically. Rather than grabbing the morning paper at your local Starbucks, you simply grab your phone and check what’s going on around the world. With the increasing use of mobile news applications and websites comes the increasing importance of good usability. Here are three online news sources that have mastered the art of good website usability:
Los Angeles Times
A 2015 Webby nominee for best user experience, the Los Angeles Times has mastered the art of usability. With a simple layout that takes every measure to avoid overwhelming clutter, the site features a unique balance between simplicity and aesthetic appeal. Pushing against the current, LA Times web-designers have minimized the use of sidebars, maximized the method of selective categorization, and have impressively found a way to not irk, but entertain users with appealing banners and advertisements. What’s more, the LA Times has introduced a rather innovative feature to its site: a small, but noticeable video-playing platform that cycles through news clips quickly enough to hold even the attention of easily-distracted millennials.
All that being said, the most impressive aspect of the LA Times website is its tactical use of white space to draw users’ eyes to the action. Its designers have made strides toward simplicity, and the site is far better off because of it. After fully grasping the mastery that’s gone into this site’s design, I can’t help but wonder if there’s anything Los Angeles isn’t good at.
Though Quartz is perhaps not the best-known or most-visited of today’s online media outlets, it should be considered one of the pioneers of good website usability. What makes Quartz so unique is that it’s taken the conventional rules of web-design, crumbled them up, and set them aflame. With a zest for innovation that should stir the interest of any and all budding usability experts, Quartz scoffs at the notion of a sidebar and snarls at the idea of loading its pages with advertisements.
The most impressive – and most fun – aspect of the site’s design is the unexpected, but entirely welcome appearance of stunning graphics that emerge with a simple roll-over of the day’s feature article. What’s more, Quartz gives its pieces the site-space and attention they deserve, using bold, black letters on a white and gray backdrop to create one of the more aesthetically pleasing experiences you’ll see from an online media outlet – all while refusing clutter. While Quartz may not be the biggest name in news today, it should be considered one of the major innovators in user experience and website usability.
Surprised? After all, when you open up the Buzzfeed homepage, the word “simplicity” certainly doesn’t jump to mind. But what’s special about Buzzfeed is that it’s mastered the art of controlling clutter, striking a balance between overloading users with content while simultaneously using categorization to keep things relatively simple.
Though topic-specific browsing isn’t new, Buzzfeed has revolutionized the game, using catchy topic-titles like “wtf” and “LOL” to make it easy to find news that fits your mood. What’s more, Buzzfeed designers have found a way to use a sidebar without frustrating users, programming a “Trending” bar that stays away from article headings, using eye-catching images to attract readers instead. Though Buzzfeed has struck that balance between hitting you with a lot of content and at the same time keeping things simple, not every site is capable of doing the same. What sets Buzzfeed apart is that it knows the demographic it’s marketing to – millennials – and it understands what that market is and is not interested in.