"Instead of adding new flooring and fixtures, they've taken the house down to the foundation"
Reuters are redesigning their site from the ground up and the approach that they're taking with it is fascinating. Most websites (news services included) put a lot of focus on the homepage to draw people into the site in the same way that contents pages of magazines are there to aggregate, highlight, and help people navigate. It's a model that is shackled to a print-based world. Yet whilst a proportion of readers may still enter the site via the home page, an increasing number come in from search queries or content shared on social media which are deep linked into the site ("The days when you could drive a big portion of your audience to any single page? That's pretty much done").
So what happens when every page is your homepage? The concept of a continuously updated stream of news is central to Reuter's DNA, so it makes sense that they should adapt this into creating a digital 'river of news' where stories are contextualised within the stream, and moving from one to another is as seamless as possible.
Take a look at the site preview and you see a heads-up display of market data across the top, the roster of Reuter's opinion writers (like the usually excellent Felix Salmon) down the side, and a news stream featuring a rolling feed of news, commentary, video, photography and even editorially curated links to relevant third party articles and content. Articles feature as part of a stream of related information with background pieces, data and commentary, and are positioned in the middle of a larger stream of content ("scroll up or down and you’ll find your story’s text actually lives in a bifurcated version of the Reuters front page"). And if you're interested in following a particular issue, topic streams combine multi-format content along with the latest breaking news around specific subjects.
The whole thing is far more reflective of how content works now on the web: living as streams, dynamic not static, effortlessly multimedia, surrounded by contextually relevant information, flowing seamlessly from one piece to the next, reflective of the increasing atomisation of content. A site where every page is the homepage.
Shifting to a content model such as this isn't easy. It requires a wholly different design approach, different workflows, and an in depth and ongoing understanding of user need and behaviour. The idea of context for example, is multi-dimensional, so serving up relevant associated content requires a sophisticated and intelligent tagging system, and staff with the know-how to use it in the right way.
But this kind of approach is a far more 'digitally-native' approach to news and content that reminded me a lot of the work done by MadeByMany in redesigning the ITV News site a year ago. That too featured a continously updated multimedia feed of news that draws on multiple sources, enables filtering by story, and is largely unshackled from legacy approaches. And it's not lost on me that this approach is fantastically suited not just to social and SEO, but also to mobile and tablet. Small wonder then, that unique views on the ITV news site have risen by over 500% since that resdesign.
Once again the value has come from unshackling approaches to content and design from legacy thinking and rebuilding a modern news service from the ground up. There are one or two similar examples of other media owners following suit (the WSJ's World Stream, and Canada's Global News) but the examples are surprisingly few. It strikes me that not only will we see more news services adopting the approach, but that there are lessons here for all content producers.