Four Kitchens

Frontpage news: a look at the Quartz redesign

3 Min. ReadDesign and UX

Just as I was looking at Quartz last week as an example of a site that mimics native app design, they’ve gone and redesigned the whole thing. In the previous design, there’s one clever thing I never noticed — a lack of a homepage. Instead, if you went to directly, you would land on the site’s featured story with a sidebar of links to more articles.

Screenshot of the previous design

Back in May, Quartz even proclaimed that the homepage was dead, citing that readers are increasingly finding their way to individual news articles through social media, email, and other channels.

Now Quartz has abandoned both the native app look and created a more typical homepage.

Why the change?

From the Nieman Journalism Lab:

Pre-redesign, 90 percent of visitors to Quartz’s website arrived through article pages, with just 10 percent coming through the front door. Part of that is Quartz’s focus on social distribution of its stories, the idea that every story starts with an audience of zero. But Seward said it’s also a chicken-and-egg scenario: “If you don’t build a homepage for people to go to, they’re not going to come to it.”

But, it’s clear Quartz is still interested in trying something new when users visit their homepage:

Now, when you come to, we are offering an efficient briefing on global business news, called the Brief. It’s intended to be read straight through, like a well written memo from a trusted advisor. What it’s not is a sea of headlines, like you find on the homepages of many news sites.”

Screenshot of the redesign

Redesign takeaways

We’re starting to see some interesting trends and pain points from the news-focused website landscape.

  • The native app-style sidebar/queue was not effective, used by only 20% of users.
  • Additionally, they ditched the native app look while also squarely aiming the redesign at mobile and tablet users.
  • We continue to see websites minimizing navigation, making sure the article’s contents are fully prominent.
  • The large sponsored “Engage” ad is smartly placed between The Brief and the Top Stories sections on the front page, similarly to how they appear inline in articles.
  • Their “Obsession” landing pages are bold and attractive destinations for topic-focused users.

Digital news trends

Tracking mobile strategy and design trends, specifically for news properties, is something I’ve been keenly interested in over the past few years. It’s been fun to watch many of the major news brands roll out mobile-friendly responsive redesigns on the heels of the landmark Boston Globe redesign in 2011 (yes, it’s been three years). Quartz is actually a “digitally native” (read digital only) news product of Atlantic Media, best known for The Atlantic magazine, which has been printing since 1857.

If you’re interested in news companies’ transition to digital, check out Clay Shirky’s probing death knell of the printed newspaper industry. It’s a fantastic read and the whole story is sure to make watching the future of digital journalism more interesting.

This article was originally posted on Medium