Fake New York Times Redesign Gets Torn To Pieces On Twitter

Design professional Andy Rutledge may have bitten off more than he could chew by trying to address the “broken design” of news websites.

In  a blog post that outlines all the problems with The New York Times’ design, Rutledge makes bold claims like, “It is hard to believe that the Times, or any other similar publication, actually cares about the news when they treat it with this sort of indignity.”

So what he proposes is his own rendition of what a NYT.com section front should look like — and journalists on Twitter, especially from the publication under scrutiny, weren’t feeling it.

And, really, they’re right. It’s hard to take seriously a design that completely ignores the constraints of a typical newspaper, or as Ryan Sholin mentioned, “Boy, it sure is easy to redesign a news site without any regard for advertising, performance, or politics. But so much fun!” Because, really, couldn’t we all whip together something glorious and beautiful if we weren’t constrained by practical needs within the newsroom?

Former New York Times developer who worked there for seven years, Michael Donohoe, rebuttaled the assumptions in Rutledge’s redesign through a post on Hacker News.

To Rutledge’s statement that digital news and news in general are broken, Donohoe wrote:

No its not. The business model is broken. Print is declining. Online revenue is being experimented with. Could be better, could be much worse.

And to Rutledge’s point that you’re only doing it right if you can publish once to a site that looks good on all devices through a few CSS overrides, Donohoe wrote:

Its something thats very easy to say – hell I wish it were true. It is not. Devices, apps, platforms, whatever. They have strengths and weaknesses. You can not have one magic solution for all. This is a crappy comparison but its a bit like saying you have one single car for every type of terrain – same car for soccer-mom and deer-hunter alike! Sweet!

Martin Belam also wrote a post about the four key pieces of audience engagement missing from Andy Rutledge’s news redux (I recommend you read the whole piece).

  1. Faces matter. The fake redesign doesn’t use any photos except in the lead image and columnist mugshots. If people are going to engage with a page, they need to be  guided by faces of people in the stories, not faces of people writing the stories.
  2. Users want brief summaries. Users read summaries and expect them. Headlines alone won’t suffice.
  3. Navigation is more than links. It’s about setting the editorial standards of a news site.
  4. News is social. The redux gets rid of any social tools, saying “popularity has nothing to do with news.” Wrong.

A few other good points made Twitter (see a full curation here):

  • “Lists like most read/commented/emailed are heavily used nav elements and shouldn’t be cast off as noise.” – Dave Stanton
  • “These no-requirements redesigns are like YouTube guitarists who can shred in their bedrooms but probably couldn’t hang with a real band.” – Danny DeBelius
  • “Re: design critique, 1 of @andyrutledge‘s many wrong assumptions is that social media has no place in news.” – Liz Heron (a Times employee)

So, what do you think of the redesign? Let us know in the comments.