After the success of its multi-chapter, multimedia avalanche science-and-adventure story last December, "Snow Fall," The New York Times today has given the online splash-page treatment to another graphics- and info-driven story, Dennis Overbye's "Chasing the Higgs Boson." In completing a loop for Overbye's reporting for the Science Times at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which began in 2007 with an interactive graphic and a slideshow, this newfound storytelling on physics now includes "Snow Fall"-style chapters and additional illustrations. They're not quite moving avalanches, but Chapter 3's design accompaniment is something like a mini-digital textbook — with extra-big graphics, of course:
But this isn't exactly "Snow Fall" 2.0 so much as the latest iteration in online packaging by a news organization with imagination to burn and not a ton of design resources to burn. "Chasing the Higgs Boson" doesn't have "parallax" — the smooth scrolling function we've seen all over the Internet of late. The new CERN story is also pretty light on video, but it's hard to capture something spinning that fast, and physics discoveries involve a lot less visual drama than, you know, an avalanche.
Still, it's tough to go that all-out with every original, heavily-reported, gee-whiz kind of story. As some pointed out, "Snow Fall" levels of packaging don't make sense as a design standard because it takes up a lot of manpower to build out. The Times may have a gee-whiz interactive news team, but "Snow Fall" took extra coding and extra reporting to make those interactives accurate. The deep sidebar this stuff is not. To create certain flyover cascades for "Snow Fall," The Times designers told The Atlantic Wire that elevation data mining took time. Fewer all-out components like that may be the new reality with still pretty jaw-dropping designs like the paper's latest on the so-called "god particle." And that's new enough for now.