A website should be the opposite of an eclipse: you need to be able to stare directly at it for a long time. Unfortunately, not all websites seem to agree.
For the many people out there whose job it is to look at the internet all day, it becomes instinctive to favor fonts that make words easier to read on a screen for sustained periods of time and organization that is easy and intuitive to navigate. All any of us want is to be able to read without sustaining eye damage or migraines as a result of visual elements that seem designed to burn holes in our retinas. Websites of the world, we just want to read your content.
Today, News Corp launched Knewz, a new website that seems not to want us to read its content:
Knewz is a website of aggregated news with no verticals, no images, no editorializing, no filtering — in other words, no governing principles of organization or curation. It is, if nothing else, a very confusing visual experience.
The bright yellow, uh, accents are also inviting comparisons to Vox, and the overall layout (?) has reminded some users of sites like Drudge. It's a little like a combination of elements from different design principles that happens to have resulted in a very bad chemical reaction.
But not all of the design elements the site borrows are all bad — that is to say, not all sites that share certain elements of Knewz's design are bad. In fact, some are great! The Outline, for example, features vastly varied font sizes and loud colors that may seem too aggressive on paper, but wind up being an interesting and energy-giving experience online. And while I might not have had anything particularly glowing to say about the design of Drudge Report before, I can now say with confidence that it is worlds more pleasing to the eye than Knewz.
As we were thinking about the design elements that make a website more streamlined and pleasing to navigate, one thing led to another, and we came up an alignment chart of digital news outlet reading experiences.
It's worth reiterating that these classifications are purely of the visual experience of navigating these websites. The sites whose design felt anywhere from completely unobtrusive to actually quite nice tended toward the upper-left corner, while the sites toward the bottom-right become harder and harder to read.
Some of these merit explanation: BuzzFeed, for example, was tricky to place, because while BuzzFeed News is actually one of the most pleasant and civilized reading experiences on the Internet (hence "lawful" — it actually is very similar in feel to The Atlantic), everything outside of the news section — fonts, organization, images, ads, stickers, the black hole of quizzes — feels blatantly antagonistic. Input remains tenuously in the "neutral" row because while individual elements of the site are sheer chaos, there is organization to it that allows users to find their way around, and the actual text of the articles is readable.
All this to say: we love reading online. It's what we do all day. All we ask is that you actually allow us to read it.