Most of the web sites we design and build are corporate web sites, but recently we helped our client launch a new web site that took a trade magazine and turned it into an online news site.
After more than 15 years as a bi-monthly trade magazine, the Global Aquaculture Alliance wanted to move the content online to make it more accessible, timely, and to help drive traffic and support for GAA’s universal goals.
There are many ways that a news site functions differently than a web site that promotes a corporation or non-profit. Here are 3 critical differences we discovered in the process of building the news site.
Home page: storytelling vs table of contents
On a corporate site, we try to tell a compelling story by leading the reader through the site. The home page of most corporate web sites announce the benefits of their product or service with a carefully crafted combination of eye-catching visuals and succinct text.
The home page of a news site requires a structure that can feature always-changing information. The home page is more of an elaborate table of contents rather than promoting one over-arching story.
different goals for sub navigation
With a corporate site, you usually have a top level navigation, then a sub navigation and maybe even a third or fourth level below that. These nested hierarchies of pages help readers drill down when they are ready for in-depth information, but can easily navigate to other sections. Generally, sub navigation on a corporate web site lists all of the pages within that section of the site.
With a news site, there is an always-expanding list of stories that reside at the same level. Readers are not interested in seeing a list of all other pages on the same level, they are interested in other stories with some kind of connection to the one they are reading. So navigation is all about referring the reader to other stories with similar themes, authors, keywords, issues, etc.
You can see the difference when you look at the typical page behavior stats in Google Analytics. With a B2B web site, traffic usually congregates in a few key pages—the home page and a few top level pages. On a news site, you’ll see long lists of pages where no one individual page grabs a great percentage of traffic, not even the home page.
Readers are readers, not prospects
Ultimately a B2B or B2C web site has the goal of converting a web site reader to a customer. This may be directly, through an e-commerce platform, or more tangentially by asking someone to join an e-newsletter, download a white paper or request an estimate.
On a news site, readers are there to read. Advertisements on the site are luring them with offers, but the owner of the news site rarely is. Usually, the goal for the news site is to increase length of time on the site and number of pages viewed as advertisers like to see engaged readers. The site presents opportunities for advertisers through ad space and advertisers ultimately hope for clicks, in addition to views.
Another aspect of this is the care that must be taken with the typography. For most corporate web sites, there is the standard response that “people don’t read!” It’s true. Mostly people skim and so we make it easy by writing using short sentences and short paragraphs.
With the Advocate news site, we focused on very specific typographic styles that would be highly readable in longer paragraphs of text. We knew the authors of this online journal were not interested in shortening their work, rather the site needed to accommodate the long article lengths.
Want to learn more about the process of designing and building the Advocate news site? Read our case study.