Swiss paper could’ve (should’ve) become more user friendly

Before I was sports editor at TPN, I was the layout editor for a little more than year. It was a great experience and like changes on the web, I got to oversee some new things happen to our print paper.

That’s why I find this story about a Swiss newspaper’s quest for a redesign very interesting (via OJB). The premise, here, is that a design company, Information Architects, was one of five groups that wanted to redesign the Swiss newspaper, Tages-Anzeiger. The company wanted to streamline the print edition and connect it with the online version.

iA failed in their bid, but their ideas are very interesting. iA’s post about their attempt goes into more detail with pictures. Overall, it was complete paper overhaul, so I won’t post about the non-online stuff (although, it’s a good read if you’ve ever worked in layout). But here are the more, as iA writes, “controversial” ideas:

1. Blue words. These words are meant to be scanned easily, so somebody could read the front page in 20 seconds. If somebody wanted to learn more about the story, they could type the blue words into the paper’s website search function and get more information. “Links in print obviously doesn’t mean that you can click it, it means linking the paper to the online edition.”

2. Reader comments. Next to a story that appears in print is a reader’s comment that appeared online. The goal is to further the connection between writer and reader.

Like I said, Information Architect’s post has more pictures of their complete redesign, but they also have the full .pdf file of their redesign available.

I could not agree more with iA’s attempt to redesign a print paper and think that a lot of people would agree with me. It’s a very radical change to a traditional form of news, but the information age has shown us that change needs to happen. Newspapers are going left and right and now is the time for somebody to try something “controversial,” or that paper will fall just like others before it. You should definitely read the bottom of iA’s post, where they outline their pitch to the Swiss paper, because it has six important pieces of advice for newspapers:

I. Three Premises

1. The Masses are not Wise …but the have become much more powerful.
2. The Reader now is a User …she is in control.
3. Newspapers need to Change: …user experience is (the) key.

II. Three Guidelines

1. Improve Readability …and make the newspaper scannable.
2. Stay True to the Medium …with optimal reading typography, big images and prominent info graphics.
3. Mary Print and Online <…because Brand=UX

That’s some pretty powerful stuff to tell a newspaper. This was pitched to a European, Swiss newspaper so I’m not sure what their philosophy is or who exactly they are catering to, but I believe in this goals and would like to see a print paper attempt these. I’m not an expert on European newspapers, but if they’re anything like most American papers, they’re run by traditional, conservative (not politically speaking) people who are afraid of change and want to cling to the ink on their fingertips, which is something, I admit, I miss.



Filed under Journalism, Media, Newspapers

2 responses to “Swiss paper could’ve (should’ve) become more user friendly

  1. This is pretty cool, Jay. After checking out the full article with all of the pictures of each page, I can see that there is an obvious influence from online news sites.

    The blue font is an interesting concept – I wish I could read German so I could see how coherent the blue words are when read together. They seem to be “keywords” that call back to the AOL feature, which enabled the user to type a simple phrase like “Kmart Blue Light” which would bring you to Kmart’s blue light specials, rather than typing in the url and navigating through the page.

    Under II.1., iA notes that they are trying to make the paper more readable, and then more scannable. Making it easier for the print version to be put online doesn’t seem to help crashing bank accounts (not that I’m trying to tell the Swiss how to run their bank accounts – they seem to know what they’re doing). But I guess my question is what the newspaper industry is like in Europe. Is this migration away from print an international procession?

  2. Lukas,

    Whether you can read German or not, the goal of this redesign is to have you read the front page of the newspaper in less than 20 seconds. If there is anything else that you’d like to see, you can use the highlighted blue words to search on the online edition of the paper.

    All of this is so radical that it makes you wonder if it can happen or not. But it’s almost to the point where you think a newspaper should just “throw all of their eggs into one basket” and give something a shot.

    If that happens, maybe this barrier between the Internet and journalism can start to fall down.

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