Video section on the ESPN.com homepage
This is a screenshot of the video block that sits half-way down the ESPN.com homepage.
Notice each video has a specific and properly formatted headline. No clunky ellipses. Every word carefully chosen. Even the spacing matters.
These are the subtle cues that separate excellence from mediocrity. Taken individually, these efforts don’t matter much. But put them together — all the thoughtful edits, all the care that goes into media selection, all the language — and they create the sense of professionalism that’s a hallmark of top-tier organizations.
Ann Friedman has a smart piece at Columbia Journalism Review that examines the role of the home page.
It’s [the home page] gone from something like a newspaper’s A1—a glimpse of and portal to the day’s top content—and become more like a magazine cover, providing a tease and a hint at the editorial project, but not a direct path to stories themselves … For a majority of readers, who come in through the side door and then pare back the URL or click on the publication’s logo, the modern homepage conveys what this news outlet is all about, but little else. It’s still valuable. It’s just not as important to the business model or editorial project. And the sooner editors come to grips with that, the better.
This shift started with SEO. It didn’t take long for savvy Internet types to realize Google was sending traffic to specific pages, not necessarily the home page. Social tools amplified this trend. No one tweets a link to your front door.
This is why I limit my focus to two things anytime a redesign is discussed:
1. The design and utility of the article page — I assume most visitors will interact with the site at this level, so the article page better look and work well. It must be clean, fast and intuitive.
2. The formatting of the body area — People come to a site to read or see something that sits in the body segment of the page. That “something” better look good. That means p tags and subheads and line height deserve attention. Videos should be large enough to look right but not so large they get cut off. Pictures should have adequate spacing. All of these details matter because this is the stuff people are looking for and at. And if you send your content out through a full RSS feed, body copy is the only thing people see.
Related thought No. 1: This is my nightmare.
Related thought No. 2: Always use a text editor. Always.