“The Guardian” Is Testing A New-Look, Easy-To-Read Website

The newspaper site is gearing up to grow its audience on mobiles and tablets.

1. If you log on to The Guardian today, this is what you might see: a new “responsively” designed website that should look the same on your desktop PC and your mobile.

It’s being A/B tested right now, which means that only a limited amount of people will see the new design. The mobile site was switched over to the new template in October but now desktop PC users are gradually starting to see it.

2. Here’s the old, non-responsively designed front page.

3. There is a lot of white space, which makes it easy to read, and a simple three-column design.

4. And yes, it’s consistent across devices.


5. The Guardian’s creative director Alex Breuer explained the move in a blog post in October, with the use of some brilliant design-wonk jargon:

At the heart of this update is the goal to create a consistent and cohesive design language and system across all our products…

Key to this is a new responsive modular grid system. This will be the design ‘substrate’ for all our digital products. Fundamentally the hierarchy, spacing and relative sizing of content components should be consistent across all breakpoints.

In addition it allows us to progressively enhance content for people accessing on devices with larger screens, but still maintain the fidelity of the design so orientation and navigability of articles and fronts should be familiar to users on whatever device they choose to consume The Guardian.

6. More than 4.5 million people visit TheGuardian.com every day, on average - less than half the amount who visit MailOnline, according to data from ABC.

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Guardian News & Media, its parent company, made digital revenues of £55.9 million in the year to March 2013, an increase of 30%, while losing £30 million . Its grand plan is to sell more targeted and relevant advertising to clients who want to reach its army of liberal-minded, professional and tech-savvy readers.

The Guardian is also one of the few major “legacy” media businesses to build its own technology (you can see their code on Github), meaning it can improve technology relatively quickly.

7. There is a wider trend here towards more readable news sites. Commercial interests have seen news websites get ever more cluttered with banner adverts, such as with this Independent.co.uk takeover from Microsoft.

The theory goes that if you make more space available for advertising, you’ll have more ad inventory to sell and so make more money, but it doesn’t always work out like that. The tide is turning away from stuffing pages with banners and towards making stuff that people enjoy using.

8. Many, many other sites also make liberal use of homepage takeovers, autoplay videos and the rest.

But filling pages with ads doesn’t make you particularly rich - publishers can only command the market rate for online advertising and only the very popular sites get impressive ad rates. Plus, you run the risk of annoying readers.

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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