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Inside USA Today’s redesigned website

Sunday - September 23rd, 2012

Written by: Tristan Pelligrino

Inside USA Today’s redesigned website

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, USA Today is unveiling a redesigned website.

With its colorful new look, beta.usatoday.com, the newspaper is attempting to keep up with the latest technology while staying ahead of the online competition.

Despite being dismissed by the journalism industry and by media critics as a lightweight news source when it began in September 1982, USA Today has risen to become the nation’s second-largest newspaper by circulation, behind the Wall Street Journal, according to data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

USA Today has become an influential publication as well, as newspapers nationwide have copied its formula of graphics and color mixed with shorter stories.

The big picture

The new website focuses on what USA Today does best: Show, not tell. The front page of each section is dominated by photos: A large photo for the main story and thumbnails for smaller stories. Each photo has a short, descriptive headline; a click takes readers to the larger story.

The new site gives readers information at a glance: basic story elements, stock market figures, sports scores and weather updates. That’s all by design, according to Fantasy Interactive, the digital agency in charge of the redesign.

The new website sets itself apart from other news sites by keeping page elements and links as simple as possible rather than asking readers to wade through lots of text or advertisements, according to Irene Pereyra, global strategy director with Fantasy International. Pereyra talked about the redesign in a recent interview with Poynter.org, a media news site.

A new story

Story pages have changed as well. Article photos can be expanded with one click. Graphics, such as maps, have been made larger; some are packaged with links to related story graphics, which open on the same page. Some stories have video reports embedded on the page. Each story has illustrated links to related articles, whether they are on beta.usatoday.com or other sites.

And each page is designed for interactivity. With one click, readers can share or print stories, offer feedback to USA Today or comment on a story at a social media site.

On the website, each page has its larger images on top, with smaller elements available by scrolling down the page. Access to other sections of the site can be gained either by clicking on the section names at the top of the page or by clicking on the large color bars on the left and right sides of the page. (Like the print edition, each bar’s color corresponds to a different section.)

Influential device

Pereyra says USA Today’s new site was influenced by the design of Apple’s iPad. That influence can be seen with each page’s side-to-side scrolling, as well an emphasis on page width over page depth on section fronts.

It remains to be seen whether beta.usatoday.com will spur other news organizations to launch similar website redesigns. For now, USA Today appears ahead of its time — as it did 30 years ago.

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