For many people, designing a content-based website is not unlike being the layout editor for a digital newspaper. It involves presenting headlines, stories, and images in a way that can cleanly convey a bigger picture and appeal to the reader – all while establishing a template suitable for constant updates and modifications.
Not all websites are content-based, but any site that seeks to provide updated information and act as a sort of landing page functions similar to virtual newspaper websites. The internet is filled with such “newspapers” that focus on technology, investing advice, a person’s daily life, a specific industry, and your very own – web design.
So if you’re looking for some inspiration on how to design the homepage of your content-driven site, look no further than the websites of major news publications. These publications, perhaps outdated in the ink-and-paper world, have learned to combine a strong design with a dependable hosting company to succeed in the digital world. Here are 5 news sites to check out, along with a main lesson that can be learned from each:
Lesson: A stylish screen banner can help a site stand out.
There are a few things that MSNBC does wrong in its site design, but the stylish banner at the top is not one of them. The banner makes the site immediately distinct and recognizable. It also provides a “master board” of tabs and news stories that form the core of the site. If you’re think of incorporating a banner of a less standard variety, MSNBC’s homepage may be a good place to visit.
Lesson: An overflow of content doesn’t have to be overwhelming
On its homepage CNN leaves no story unturned, as a visitor is quickly treated to lists of national, international, political, business, technology, and travel news, among many others. This overflow, however, does not appear overwhelming because the content is highly differentiated based on list, position on page, and photograph inclusion.
-New York Times
Lesson: Size matters.
A quick scan of the New York Times’ homepage makes it very clear which stories are more important than others. Sure, the top news items tend to fall near the top, but the reader can also make this determination by simply looking at size – the size of a headline, sub-headline, and preview text. These sizes distinctions are often subtle, but they create differentiation and create a deliberate – and clear – hierarchy of importance.
-Los Angeles Times
Lesson: Clear and crisp rules the day.
The Los Angeles Times website isn’t cluttered by any means, but it still is far from the cleanest around. The site, after all, fills a good portion of the top of its homepage with ads. Nevertheless, the clean and clear layout gets the job done by presenting content in a highly accessible manner.
-The Guardian (London)
Lesson: Color is classy.
The use of color in web design can have strong impacts on the final appearance – impacts both positive and negative. If you want to see a strong and classy use of color, look no further than the homepage of The Guardian, which throws together calm tones in its banner, photos, and headlines in a way that makes the site seem welcoming and warm without appearing tacky.
You might want to check these sites out for yourself and see what you think. You may not find their layouts applicable to your site or worth pursuing, and you simply might leave the experience having gained little inspiration. But, then again, you may learn something new or see something differently. If you’re looking for design ideas, it’s certainly worthy of a try.