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Dear god, where to start. I worked on the Times web site for 7 years (dev, not design). Before I even saw his "redesign" I read his preamble. First, lets be clear, he is working from the wrong assumptions. He demonstrates clearly what is wrong with many news outlets but then he lumps the Times in with them too. Since his piece is about the Times I have to feel all assertions he makes are about that too, and not just media in general.

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

  Almost all news organizations have abandoned reporting in
  favor of editorial; have cultivated reader opinion in
  place of responsibility; and have traded ethical standards
  for misdirection and whatever consensus defines 
  as forgivable. 
 
Please don't lump the Times in this category. They have a small amount of clearly stated Editorial content. Separate from that is the Opinion pages, and what is completely separate from that is News (thats the bit where they try their damnedest to keep Opinion out of it and cite sources, provide analysis and present facts).

  And this is before you even lay eyes on what passes for
  news design on a monitor or device screen these days.
We'll get to this part...

  In digital media—websites in particular—news outlets 
  seldom if ever treat content with any sort of dignity
  and most news sites are wedded to a broken profit model
  that compels them to present a nearly unusable mishmash
  of pink noise…which they call content.
Actually that "broken profit model" isn't broken for some but thats another argument. If you have ever sat in a newsroom meeting, or a design review, or a meeting where product people spar with editorial who spar with developers you would realize that dignity is a big deal. A big FUCKING deal. You might not like the fruits of that but don't never say they don't give a shit. The Times prizes content to a fault.

  In an effort to disguise and mitigate the fact that they
  have little idea how to publish digital content 
  properly—often sneakily called "differentiation"—some
  news outlets release apps for digital devices. These 
  apps typically (but not always) do a better job of 
  presenting content and facilitating navigation, but
  they’re a band aid on a festering abdominal wound. 
  Digital media is simply digital media; if you do it 
  right you publish once and it works anywhere. If you’re
  using an app to deliver content, you’re doing it wrong.
First, its not clear that this criticism is Times specific. However its still wrong. I've been in plenty of meetings with bright people from inside and outside the company where we started off with the goal that, as he put it, "if you do it right you publish once and it works anywhere". It didn't work. These were not just "old media" types either - these are talented people, some of whom who don't even read the print edition. gasp

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!

  Instead of working with a handful of redundant, 
  mitigating formats (websites, mobile sites, apps, etc...)
  for content delivery to popular devices, news 
  organizations should simply deliver it correctly in
  the first place, one time; using html, css, JavaScript,
  ...oh, and design. The employment of content design
  would be quite refreshing, actually.
Sadly, this is very much an example of a person looking in. I'm not sure how to counter this. Its simply a matter of not knowing what happens on the 7th floor of the Times Building. Nor could he. However I can only assure you that a very dedicated group of Designers are actively working on NYTimes.com and they know their shit.

There is definitely a crap load of work to do to fully redesign a web site that was last done in 2005 - but it does happen. A couple of URLs come to mind which are not illustrated in his piece:

Opinion (redesigned last year)

http://www.nytimes.com/opinion/

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/07/25/how-budget-c...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/opinion/26brooks.html

Times Skimmer

http://www.nytimes.com/skimmer/#/Top+News

Books / Best Sellers List

http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/combined-print-and...

T Magazine (CHECK THIS ONE OUT - you seem to have missed it Andy!)

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/t-magazine/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/gst/tmagazine/video/index.html

Dealbook Blog

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/

Business Day Sectionfront

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/business/index.html

LENS Blog

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

Times Machine

http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/browser

Opinionator Blog (my favorite design)

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/

Slide Show (Great Homes)

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/20/greathomesandd...

So whats next... well too much actually. I do not have the time nor the patience to dig at all of Andys points. Im sure not all of them are bad, but there is enough there to make me wonder whats wrong with this guy. Again, he is a professional. I am sure he has had critics of his work, and he knows that there was an inner process where a lot of those points were brought up and shown not to hold water. He is now doing the same thing.

So I'll leave it on one final point. Mobile Sites. Its an example of what happens when you don't know that the Times is aware of his point and we discussed it and there was a damn good reason we made the decision that we made.

What am I talking about? He shows the iPhone with the full NYT homepage and has the caption "Um, are you frisking kidding me?". In other words why not a mobile site.

Well, very simple. The iPhone is capable of rendering and interacting with the full page. It was the first browser to do so - it don't require a lite version. You could tap, zoom, pinch, drag and get the full depth of the page. Other browsers - like those for Nokia, RIM etc couldn't handle that.

This was talked over to death. There were compelling arguments about going down this road - or not. In the end, the decision was made to NOT redirect those advanced browsers to the mobile site. You can still go to m.nyt.com if you like, we just wont force you too.

  but it should not require anything more than a media 
  query fetching different CSS and perhaps some additional
  scripting so as to simply restyle the content experience
Andy does say that all you need is media quires for the CSS and such and bingo. Well, no. No its not that simple. If you want to redo the homepage for a specific mobile experience then you probably want to serve different sized images, maybe not have some Flash stuff on the iPhone, maybe drop the bandwidth intensive stuff that works well on desktop.

CSS media queries does not solve the problem. It is never that easy and shame on your for saying so. You are a professional. You should know better. Bad Andy. Bad. No biscuit for you.

Man, this makes me bitter. RANT OFF.




"In the end, the decision was made to NOT redirect those advanced browsers to the mobile site. You can still go to m.nyt.com if you like, we just wont force you too."

Thank you so much. Seriously. It's extremely rare for it to ever be enjoyable to use a "mobile" site on an iPhone. At least for me.

I feel like sending you a cake.

I wish there were some way to disguise the iPhone as a PC, so that no website automatically redirects me to any mobile version ever.

EDIT: For example, I just got an email saying I've been tagged in a photo on Facebook. So I go to facebook.com on my iPhone, and they've managed to completely break scrolling in their mobile version. I literally cannot scroll down on any page. 100% certain, and 100% aggravating --- and as far as I can tell, no way for me to get to the full site.


I agree completely. I'm not sure its best for everyone but that is also my preference too.

Send a cake. I'm in Seattle now but you could send a cake to the designers on the 7th floor.

  NYTimes.com Design Group
  c/o Angela Rutherford
  The New York Times
  620 8th Ave (7th floor)
  New York, NY 10018
Tell them to invite the Developers from the 8th floor too, and the Interactive News Group on the 2nd.

Add a brief note on any design/ux tweaks you'd like :)

Cake = (!Lie) ? Motivation : Lie


Wouldn't it be even better if we could send the cake to one floor, and have the designers, developers, and content team all work together? :)


I couldn't agree more. If we had that I might have stayed - or gotten a hell of a lot more done.


> I wish there were some way to disguise the iPhone as a PC, so that no website automatically redirects me to any mobile version ever.

There is, just don't use Mobile Safari. Atomic Web Browser supports user agent spoofing for example.


The Facebook iPhone app is much better - I find the normal webpage unusable on the iPhone.


I actually read the online edition of the Times and I find it highly readable. A very enjoyable experience. I suspect this designer isn't a regular reader. News organizations are viewed as easy targets for designers trying to increase their brand by writing a sensationalist article (did we really need any more convincing after "news itself is broken"?). So don't be bitter. The good work being done at the Times is self evident.


I sound more bitter than I am. I guess I am defensive. Very it seems. I know the people in the design group at the Times and Andy writes like there is no Design group, thats its all slap-dash and easy-peasy to fix.

That fact that Andy is a design profesional makes my blood boil. Andy should know that is easy to look in from the outside, make grand statements without knowing the truth and reality of why things end up the way they do.

If this were some kid in design school I'd brush it off - but Andy co-own a design firm in TX and wrote a book called "Design Professionalism". WTF!


Have your read the book?


No, I'm waiting for the movie to come out.

:) sorry couldn't resist.

No. I have not read the book. I feel the point I am making is valid without having read it. The fact is clear that this person is a design profesional even without the book.


You should, I recommend it.


I'm actually getting really tired of this trend of stripping every UI design down to a moronic level of simplicity. There's probably some room for simplification in the front page but gutting it down to next to nothing is a big step too far.


The thing that sticks out the most to me in Andy's critique is how he skims over the fact that news sites currently have a lot of ads to keep them afloat, and removing them requires dismantling entire ads sales departments, marketing departments, industry standards for ad sizes that must be available on your site for advertisers to even want to talk to you, and the bottom line: huge chunks of money (especially for big homepage campaigns).

This is something that every designer (and developer) at every media organization has to struggle with. And it speaks to what you said about someone looking in from the outside. It's very easy to create something like Andy's lovely design (and I'm sure every designer at every media organization has created or has wanted to create something similar), but it's another thing to design around all these ad sizes and push back on ad sales to have more room for creativity.


Andy Rutledge has very strong right-wing/libertarian opinions and has long hated the New York Times. I think that's why he chose it to dissect, when there are more obvious choices with a clearly strong editorial bias that need a "re-design"


Does he? To be fair, I would not have gathered that from his post. I think he kept that much separate.


In this post, yes (though he does insinuate that the NY Times has too strong of an editorial bias). In others, no:

https://twitter.com/#!/andyrutledge/status/95664717669994496

https://twitter.com/#!/andyrutledge/status/94536441488621569

http://www.andyrutledge.com/how-to-join-aiga.php

Again, if it works for him, great. It just makes it harder for me personally to be objective about him and his work.


Actually, he's a pretty staunch conservative, not to mention an all around douche. Remember his 2008 redesign of USA.gov?

http://www.andyrutledge.com/usa-dot-gov-redux.php


Thanks for the heads-up. The problem with the Internet is that sometimes you end up reading things by people with inappropriate political positions, and it's not immediately apparent. Hopefully the addition of social networking features to search, etc, will help resolve this problem in future.


Does his political position really have any impact on his ability to redesign? How would knowing his political positions help you to come to a judgement on whether the redesign made a position difference or not?

However, knowing his political positions would immediately put you in either a positive or negative (depending on your position) frame of mind and would stop you from having a fair and balanced opinion.


I think innes had tongue firmly planted in cheek.


Yes indeed. Maybe too deadpan for some.


While I disagree with most or all of his political opinions, I wouldn't necessarily call them inappropriate. I find it strange that he consistently chooses to combine business and politics, but it's his company so it's really not my problem. Maybe it works really well for him.


You beat me to my reply about Andy. I almost regret taking his blog off my reading list, because he's a fantastic designer that has a special skill for teaching design fundamentals by example. Unfortunately, I couldn't tollerate slogging through all the political grit to get to any design points he had to make in his posts.


I think one of the original ads for the iPhone used nytimes.com to show off how it could browse the "real" web.


FWIW, I've read NYT in everything ranging from BB OS 4.5 browser on a Pearl 8100 (woo 2007!) to Opera Mobile 11 on a 7" tablet and it was some of the best experiences I've had on mobile devices. Kudos to any and all involved in its creation.


Mike,

Nice reply. I agree that this guy seems to have it in for The New York Times. He says, "CNN has a nice format halfway down the page". How is that different from the INSIDE NYTIMES.COM section of the Home Page?

His case for clean design rests on his assumption that the Times can charge enough for content to pay the expenses of the newsroom. He says nothing to back up that assumption. I love his confidence, and I wish shared it!

Tim


What about adaptive / responsive design?

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/

http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2011/01/12/guidelines-for...

http://webdesignledger.com/inspiration/30-creative-examples-...

I know it's easier to throw the same page no matter what screen size it is.

First you say that there is no single solution:

"You can not have one magic solution for all."

and then:

"Well, very simple. The iPhone is capable of rendering and interacting with the full page. It was the first browser to do so - it don't require a lite version. You could tap, zoom, pinch, drag and get the full depth of the page."

You just defend your ugly design by "it's not doable" and by "we know better"


tl;dr: Working 7 years at the website of the Times makes you bitter?


"In other words why not a mobile site.

Well, very simple. The iPhone is capable of rendering and interacting with the full page. It was the first browser to do so - it don't require a lite version. You could tap, zoom, pinch, drag and get the full depth of the page. Other browsers - like those for Nokia, RIM etc couldn't handle that."

That's your main reason for not having a mobile site?

In terms of usability, zooming in on a mobile device to click on a website designed for a desktop browser is a nightmare. Just because it can be done, doesn't mean that's the way it should be. It results in a horrible experience.

Poor excuse, poor design.


  That's your main reason for not having a mobile site
No. I never said that. We do have a Mobile site. If you're not going to read the comment please state tl;dr so I can save replying and just go to bed.

I said: because the iPhone has a very very advanced browser that is more than capable of handling our Homepage we do not REDIRECT them to the Mobile site automatically. You can still go there if you like.

I am also adding: We did find that a larger chunk of users preferred the regular Homepage on their iPhones and did NOT want to go to the Mobile version.

Side note:

  In terms of usability, zooming in to click on a website designed 
  for a desktop browser is a nightmare. Just because it can be done,
  doesn't mean that's the way it should be. It results in a horrible
  experience.
Agreed. It wasn't done because it could be done. You may not like this choice. However, this wasn't about what you or I or the Times wanted, this was about our readers and what they wanted.

NOTE: I keep saying "we" as in the Times and I. I don't work there any more but the strongest force in the universes is still the force of habit. Apologies.


That justification is more acceptable, but still a poor excuse (which doesn't sound like your fault), and if anything highlights the problem with the focus of user-centered design.

I'm sure you'd agree, design isn't a democracy. Clearly, your users are wrong.


Mobile sites suck; I detest when I get redirected to them on my Android phone. About the only time they are justified is when the site is heavily dependent on mouse hovering and other desktop-centric interaction idioms.


the problem with the focus of user-centered design.

Wait, what? Why is this a problem? Who else should the design be focused on but the user of the site?

If the users are wrong, who is right?


"I said: because the iPhone has a very very advanced browser that is more than capable of handling our Homepage we do not REDIRECT them to the Mobile site automatically. You can still go there if you like."

My point still stands. Just because Apple give you the choice to pinch and zoom doesn't mean that's the way it should be.

The fact you already have a mobile site but choose not to put it to its full use baffles me even further.


Please re-read my response. I said it is what our readers wanted. Readers. Sometimes your audience isn't always right and you have to deal with that and show them the way (like Apple), but was not one of those cases.

To re-iterate: OUR READERS WANTED THE HOMEPAGE AND NOT THE MOBILE SITE ON THEIR IPHONES.


Personally I dislike it when a site redirects me to some mobile version (often breaking the permalink and sending me to the main page). I think a URL should render the same no matter what browser it is being viewed from.


As a NYTimes reader and an iPhone user I am very happy they do not redirect me to the mobile site. I avoid sites that do this in Mobile Safari.

I'm curious as to who you think is supposed to have the final say on "the way it should be".




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