In the Era of Trump, Politico Redesigned Its Website to Adapt to the Fast and Furious News Cycle

The new site launches today

Headshot of A.J. Katz

When Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown returned to the prominent American political journalism outlet as editor in 2016, redesigning was near the top of her “to-do list.”

Budoff Brown can now check that goal off because the new, radically different goes live today.

Site readability has improved, and there’s a new, unadorned typeface named Din, which replaces the old Proxima Nova type. Additionally, the background is lighter, and there are no longer condensed fonts on the site.

One question that needed to be asked: Why redesign a website that has seen its traffic increase more than 30 percent year over year to date, and averages more than 26 million uniques per month?

Budoff Brown says it really comes down to flexibility and the changing ways in which Politico’s journalists are producing content. Previously, the site wasn’t particularly conducive to the increasing amount of visual journalism its journalists were producing.

“A redesign really became a point of necessity for us,” said Budoff Brown. “The website just didn’t accurately reflect the newsroom we had become, and all of the different kinds of content we’re producing, from investigative stories, to videos, audio, our newsletters.”

The new has the ability to evolve as news happens—whether that’s breaking news, big event news, live coverage or Politico exclusive interviews with newsmakers.

With how the current political news cycle functions in the era of Trump, adaptation is essential.

“The homepage is critical for any news brand, but its relevancy in this political environment—where major stories are breaking daily, hourly—is actually increasing,” said Sarah Sampsel, design director for Work & Co, the digital product agency behind the redesign. “Readers are more often heading to the homepage directly, versus just through search or social.”

Sampsel, who led the redesign, is a veteran in this space. She was head of digital design and strategy at The Washington Post before assuming her present role at Work & Co., and has worked on a number of website redesigns, including a number of public projects, Disney’s Freeform (formerly ABC Family), the award-winning Marriott app, and the recent website redesign of TechCrunch.

“The new Politico reflects everything critical to a modern news site in that it’s clean, fast and designed for every screen size,” Sampsel continued. “But what’s really exciting about this redesign is that it’s not rigid. This approach focuses on the immediacy and relevance of news.”

While many readers continue to visit the website via computer, Politico’s mobile traffic is significant. That’s why Politico ensured its redesign would be very mobile-friendly.

With the new mobile design, there’s one tab with an up-to-the-minute feed of breaking stories and new developments. The other tab has other Politico stories.

With a greater focus on how the content reads on mobile, will Politico editorial be impacted in any way? For instance, will stories become more concise? Budoff Brown says Politico is always considering new ways of doing things differently from an editorial standpoint, and will continue to respond to readers habits. “I think this is one way that we’re doing that, and we’re going to be looking at other ways to do that as well,” said Budoff Brown, though she didn’t elaborate on what those other ways would be.

Politico is also known for its daily email newsletters. The Politico Playbook is widely read by politicians and those involved in politics, while the Morning Media newsletter focuses on the latest about the news and political media. Politico also sends out newsletters Morning Money and Morning Cybersecurity.

Don’t expect the newsletter format to change at this time, says Budoff Brown, though it’s something the outlet is “actively working on.”

Work & Co. also conducted Politico user testing one month into the redesign process to help validate and iterate their concepts, but like with any significant website revamp, Politico will surely receive its fair share of complaints from longtime readers.

“Nobody likes change, and if you look on our site today, the new font is already up, which is jarring to me personally at the moment,” said Budoff Brown.

She added: “We’re confident that our readers will soon see the value of this page over our current offering. The mobile experience is so much better, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to get over the hump.”

@ajkatztv A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.