What’s black, white, and red all over?

A newspaper, goes the old joke. Within the context of digital ink our question is now, what’s next? Not so long ago “what’s next” was responsive design. No more.

“Responsive design” describes the ability for a webpage to be viewed across multiple devices, for example, from laptop, to phone, to tablet. While that’s been convenient for delivering news and media to multiple devices it has unintentionally caused a problem — a design problem.

The problem is that most websites use the same template over and over again. There is no visual hierarchy presenting news in a helpful context. “To a user, a day when war breaks out in Iraq can feel exactly the same as a day when the biggest news is a change in Bieber’s hairstyle,” write Dan Gartner and Mike Treff on Fast Company’s Co-DESIGN site.

The authors point out how traditional newspapers got it right:

When you look at the print version of any major print publication over time, you realize that they don’t just have a couple of templates. They have hundreds. They have the ability to respond to any combination of events with a design that gives each event the proper editorial weight.

The authors stress that the next generation of media needs to include a “responsive philosophy,” one that can provide visual context conveying proper editorial weight. This is more than screens that resize to fit devices. This philosophy is the foundation the pair used to recently redesign the Los Angeles Times website.

Responsive Philosophy – Design Lessons from the L.A.Times

What lessons should other companies using brand journalism draw from these conclusions? Some suggestions:

  1. Experiment with your blog template
    There is no reason that your blog or website needs to remain static. Choose a template that offers the greatest ongoing flexibility in terms of image use, size, and placement.
  2. Consider story weight
    Stories will vary in perceived importance based on your industry. For example, in tech businesses industry shake-ups or disruptive technical innovation is by definition “news-ier” than other brand journalism stories. Alternatively, other businesses might place greater importance on human-interest stories that relate to the brand’s products or services.
  1. Value context and prioritize empathy
    To quote Gartner and Treff again, emphasis added: “As brands become more publisher-like, they’ll also need to incorporate a responsive philosophy that adapts to the user so that they can reach them at the right time, with the right messaging, and an understanding of cultural events.”

It will be revealing to watch how businesses of all sizes adapt to offer the principles of responsive design, and what new tools and visual languages might emerge.

Image: Chasing Daisy

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