January 28, 2015 Last Updated 7:53 am

The Guardian officially launches its new responsive website

Like most newly introduced website designs, loyal readers express surprise and disappointment in the disappearance of the old website look and navigation scheme

The Guardian today officially launched its new website. The site has actually been around a while now, open to those who went to beta site, so the look will not actually be new for many readers.

“Today we are launching a new site which has been built and designed from the ground up by the Guardian’s in-house team of designers, journalists, user-experience architects, product managers, developers and software-engineers,” The Guardian editors wrote on the site.

Guardian-new-website“The new Guardian site presents you with a more compact view of the news agenda as it changes throughout the day and night. The new design will also give you more visual clues about each story’s relative importance and its editorial tone, whether it is a breaking news story or a live blog, a piece of analysis, a piece of opinion, a feature or a review.”

The Guardian is in a very different place than The New York Times. The Guardian is free to experiment and change its look without encountering the same sort of reader feedback that the Gray Lady would deal with.

Like most website redesigns, The Guardian’s new look is being met with negative comments. This is normal, I am afraid as readers adjust to any new website. (I’ve found that if they universally like your new site, it was because they universally hated your old one.)

But readers are finding some legitimate things to complain about. For instance, in the UK, The Guardian’s site had “Media” as a section promoted on the home page, now one must search a bit to find it. (It’s still there.)

Another wrote “It feels like living life zoomed in!”

TG-newsite-iPadThe reason for that is that designers are more and more designing for smaller screens – tablets and smartphones. In this case, The Guardian has a mobile website, so the look was not created for smartphones, but I do think the designers were consciously designing for small screens.

“We are aware of how different this new site is from what our most loyal readers have been used to since our last relaunch in 2007. The Guardian owes a lot to its old site and to the brilliant team that built and maintained it for so many years,” the editors wrote. “Yet we also realised – across all departments and teams – that the time had come to completely renew the site so it can support the Guardian’s and the Observer’s mission in the years to come and serve you, wherever you are in the world and whichever device you are using.”

The site is, of course, responsive. On a smaller desk of iPad window, it will show a design that is 932 pixels wide. Open it up a little on a desktop and a left sidebar appears that contains the weather and also some additional elements such as the crossword puzzle and more navigational clues. 932 feels small to me. The NYT’s site is designed at 960 pixels. (TNM is 1060 pixels wide which opened up to full size on a desktop.)

My biggest complaint about the new site is that while it feels like it was designed for smaller screens, its new ad unit looks as if it were designed with the desktop in mind. As a result, the top ad takes over such a huge portion of the screen on an iPad that there is little of the new Guardian website to be seen.

I think newspaper website designers are still struggling with the changing landscape of reading devices. It is no surprise that this should be the case, newspapers always seem to be the last media outlets to adjust. But I think the reason for this is that newspapers must deal with vast amounts of content delivered daily. A magazine website, even one that publishes new content daily, deals with small drips of content compared to a newspaper. The NYT, therefore, stays with a look that is a merging of paper and digital. Others search for a more digitally native look.

I readers will adjust to the new look of The Guardian’s home page. In the end, it may prove irrelevant. Readers today, more and more, are coming to news websites from social media. Many never see the home page, they are taken directly to the story. The Guardian’s new design features a standard story hole that is 620 pixels wide (TNM’s is 580, which I think it is too narrow). This allows for a very attractive look on all devices, yet gives editors plenty of real estate to work with.

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