The New York Times has released a sneak peek of its website redesign, and with a clean look heavy on the white space, it kind of looks like a blog, which isn't a bad thing. While the Times and other more traditional sites have stuck with the standard newspaper article on page format, blogs like Gawker, Mashable, and The Verge have learned to lure in readers by telling a more visual story of sorts. Some might call the Times new look a bit of thievery, but we have to cheer when a big, old newspaper company leads the way into the future of Internet design by taking a page out of the Internet's own book.
Starting at the top, the Times has added other stories to the top of its article pages, much like The Atlantic Wire and many other news sites, including Gawker's new, photo-friendly Kinja design, feature up top:
Next in the sneak preview comes the Times's embrace of a page's full width — The Verge, anyone? — over the old right rail, a design strategy the Times has already been experimenting with a bit. Up until now, the Times, along with many other traditional news sites, reserved the top portion of its right rail for advertisements and other boxes of content, like its most e-mailed stories. Now, the entire top of an article — image plus headline — takes up the full width of the page. As Cody Brown, founder of Skrollkit, "a powerful visual editor that will transform the stories you bring to the web," explained in a post criticizing Time magazine's similar design faux pas, this move is "the difference between a handful of facebook shares and a post that stops the internet for a day," he writes. "Every pixel counts."
Update: Turns out only the magazine stories get the full width image treatment, per the press kit, which has article pages for newspaper stories, too. Presumably because of precious above the fold ad buys, the every day news articles have smaller width photos:
Scrolling further down the Times's article preview, however, it looks like the reader (and advertiser) won't lose all right-rail functionality after that big splashy image: The article cinches itself into a smaller width, leaving spaces for other things — advertising boxes, most notably, though it's unclear from the preview whether they'll stay in place as a fixed element upon scroll:
Also, throughout the sample article, the Times looks to have added more interactive features, like videos and slideshows, à la "Snow Fall," which happened to also borrow a lot of its great ideas from The Verge, ESPN Magazine, SB Nation, and Pitchfork. It's important to note, however, that the sample is a Times Magazine story, and the daily newspaper probably doesn't have the resources to build extensive multimedia for every article.
The one completely new tool on the site, however, might be its most genius — if most obvious: a usable navigation bar! Because of its depth, the Times can't rely on those few related stories up top to guide readers through all of its content. So they've hidden this little access bar on the side of every article page. It's cool, as you can see over there at right..
So far, people like what they can see, in this very limited preview page. But, hoping to get more feedback the Times has opened this up for a broader discussion. The masses can sign up for a full preview over here, after which the Gray Lady's design and UI masterminds will take a "randomly selected group of users" who will "utilize it and provide feedback," according to the press release. So, the final product might look a bit different. So far, however, so good.