Notebook: 14 April 2016 | NEWSPAPERS | DIGITAL
It’s been an eventful start to the year for the UK newspaper industry. We’ve seen the launch of the breezy New Day newspaper by Trinity Mirror Group, the disappearance from our newsstands of The Independent with its bold move to a digital only future, and on Monday this week we’ve had the ‘re-launch’ of the i newspaper by its new owner Johnston Press and today (14 April 2016) the i has launched inews.co.uk. This is the i‘s first proper news website (in the past when the i shared a stable with The Independent they piggybacked on to the Indy‘s website).
I’ve always liked the i newspaper with its dip-in-and-out bite-sized articles (see my review here of the i Weekend supplement which was introduced in September last year) and under its new owners the paper has retained its successful design. When they announced that they were producing an online edition I looked forward to seeing how the newspaper would translate to digital – but when I clicked through to the site this morning, I was disappointed with their offering and came away with the feeling that maybe they had rushed to get a website up and running without really planning it through. Here’s where I think they’ve slipped up:
• There’s not a huge amount of synergy between the i newspaper and the website. OK – so they’ve used the same font but what about the rest of the branding? They’ve flooded the website with red and black whereas the newspaper has a larger palette of colours which are handled more sensitively. ‘Brand’ is so important and it is something that The Guardian does so well – when you visit The Guardian website, the quality of their design leaves you in no doubt that the paper and website are from the same news organisation.
• The i home page (pictured above) lacks presence. There is a small and apologetic title – i News: The Essential Daily Briefing tucked in the top left corner and I’m left wondering why they didn’t brand the home page with a big, bold ‘i’ just like they do on the newspaper? Couple this with a banner advert, a sidebar advert and an anonymous lead story picture and the home page feels very flimsy with the reader having to scroll down before they get to the guts of the site.
• The website lacks the lightness of touch and typographic variety that is found in the newspaper. So for instance, they’ve carried the news matrix idea over from the paper with a grid of pictures, but because they use just the one bold slab-serif typeface in white on pictures that have been darkened across the bottoms for legibility, the whole thing looks heavy and unrelenting (see pic above).
• Scroll down further and you’re into the nicely named Essentials, Explainers and Distractions sections but the design, that makes use of short and very wide pictures, results in some awkward picture cropping with tops of heads and chins disappearing (see picture above).
I’m sure with time, they’ll iron some of these design issues out but the problem is, first impressions count – they need to grab the reader within the first ten seconds or so, or they’ll click off and go elsewhere. Perhaps an even bigger issue than that of the design, may be the lack of sufficient content, as media commentator Roy Greenslade noted in his review for The Guardian which you can read here. My content test was to see if I could find any reviews of the previous day’s cricket County Championship matches but alas, I couldn’t find a word, and this, for me, was the biggest turn-off.