The NYTimes.com redesign that debuted earlier this month incorporates a full array of the hot buttons in online media today—broadband-delivered video, RSS, personalization and the wide-body 1024-pixel format seen on updated Web sites from CNN, ESPN and the Washington Post .
“With our larger display field, we have designed a product that feels more like a newspaper, although we don’t aspire to duplicate our print newspaper on the Web,” said Martin Nisenholtz, senior VP-digital operations for the New York Times Co., noting that the wider display is reminiscent of The New York Times’ five-column-wide print format.
“Our editors can showcase their editorial sensibilities and news judgment in the stories that they choose to emphasize,” he added, contrasting The New York Times’ approach with that of wire services that organize stories according to currency, with the most recent appearing first regardless of importance.
Rob Larson, director of product management and development for NYTimes.com, led the redesign. “The switch to horizontal navigation on most pages, except for the home page, is a major part of the redesign,” he said. “Because of the way people use search, each page needs to stand on its own. So each of the familiar sections—“World,” “Business,” “Science,” “Arts,” “Travel”—is listed on the navigation bar at the top of each page and, if you click on one, the subsections of that section will be listed on the toolbar below so that users can see how the site is organized. We’ve gotten very good feedback on this.”
There is also a series of tabs above The New York Times logo that brings users automatically to featured sections that include “Video,” “Most Popular,” “Times Topics” and “My Times,” the personalized area that was not ready to launch on the redesign debut date of April 3.
“ ‘My Times’ will be one of the highlights of the site as it moves into general circulation,” Nisenholtz said, explaining that the feature will be rolled out gradually, starting in the near—but still unrevealed—future with people who have offered their e-mail addresses in order to preview it.
“Having some sort of intelligent guidance is the missing link between purely editorial sites and open sites that allow consumers to organize a personalized experience using RSS feeds,” Nisenholtz said. “We will have Best of the Web lists developed by people like Tom Friedman, [New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling book “The World Is Flat”]. If you’re looking for the best information on foreign affairs and global issues, you can subscribe to RSS feeds all over the Internet or you can go directly to the sites and stories Tom has selected.”
The site was designed with the expectation that The New York Times would be producing much more broadband-delivered video and other types of multimedia. Although it has been generating original video for more than a year, video content has been packaged along with individual stories, so it wasn’t easy to find until the Video tab was incorporated at the top of each page in the redesign, Larson said.
“Video is a high priority,” Nisenholtz said. “Our plan, in a nutshell, is to start creating video content at the desks where it makes the most sense and to continue to roll it out over time. So we started with the movie critics. We now produce two or three original Movie Minutes each week.”
Although Nisenholtz said the online division has been hiring people with video expertise in anticipation of these changes over the past two years, “our goal is not to add new people. It is to empower and teach the people we have to become more ambidextrous when it comes to all the ways they can tell a story.”