Change is in the air at NPR. Just a few months ago, the organization uprooted itself and moved into brand-new Washington, D.C. offices. Today, it is unveiling a complete redesign of its homepage, offering a more responsive and carefully curated reading experience for the site's 23 million monthly readers.
"It is about engaging the audience and creating an experience that embraces them on whatever platform they want," Zach Brand, VP of Digital Media at NPR.org told Fast Company.
For NPR readers, that platform is mobile. Roughly half of the site's audience visits the site via a mobile device, so the team decided a responsive design was necessary. Now the site will adapt to any browser and any screen, including, NPR claims, Google Glass.
Where the old homepage was cluttered with more than 100 links, the new design moves away from the "above the fold" approach and features fewer stories, and much more prominently. Stories appear as cards, with a the top item accompanied by a large image that spans most of the page. Infinite scrolling and navigation tools that scroll with the reader aim for a "fluid but focused experience." The right side of the new homepage features the latest trending stories to encourage exploration.
"We're going to be more selective and more thoughtful," says Scott Montgomery, digital news managing editor at NPR. "We really believe... that's going to drive people to actually dive deeper."
The design also highlights local news affiliates by automatically identifying and displaying a visitor's local NPR station. "We're doing a better job, frankly, of establishing the national/local connection that is such an intrinsic part of public radio."
Often when a site redesigns, the changes are marked by an onslaught of complaints from frustrated users, and even a temporary drop in traffic. But according to Brand, that hasn't been the case with NPR, which started rolling out its new design on story pages earlier this year. "We have seen very positive feedback. We actually have a correlated growth with the elements of redesign that we have rolled out so far. We are very optimistic that trend will continue with this homepage rollout."