It’s here, people! NBC has gone (more) digital, because we as a society have decided that this was better for the environment, and also because the news gets to our phones so much faster. It’s also cheaper. Okay, I’m going to stop messing with the print guys—they’ve done nothing to me—suffice it to say that the industry has changed, and NBC is still changing with it, on the design front.
Back in June of 2017, we said that NBC was working on a redesign, as a part of their increased focus on digital publishing, and online video. Well, they kept working on it, and it’s here. Well, it’s here for all of NBC’s major websites anyway. It was originally launched on two sub-sites in order to test out the concepts created with the help of design agency Code and Theory.
Well apparently they’ve done enough iterating that they’re ready to release it on their “big three”: nbcnews.com, msnbc.com, and today.com. They all just got updated with a coherent, stylish, and definitely tech-blog-influenced design. For comparison, here’s the before and after:
NBC News before…
Now what has changed since they first implemented this design system? Well, the focus on imagery hasn’t gone anywhere, and neither has their emphasis on smooth video integration. There does seem to be more information and text packed into a somewhat smaller space than in the earlier iterations, but these home pages are on larger sites, so that makes sense.
The asymmetry they experimented with before has come out in full force, leaving some space for advertising, and some space to just let your eyes rest while you contemplate the headlines that just got burned into your brain. They’re going for the hit-them-with-sensory-input-and-see-what-sticks approach that, to be frank, has worked for news organizations for years, now. The main difference is that it mostly looks better, now.
NBC News and MSNBC frankly do look a lot like tech/business blogs (with more than a hint of Bloomberg, as someone commented on our last article about this), but they’re pretty and readable, so I say we go with it. Today looks like the lifestyle and celebrity gossip magazine it is, and that distinction is mostly accomplished through its typography, which is actually kind of impressive.
An interesting note is that, according to a press release, page layouts are actually supposed to change with the intensity of the news cycle, or rather, with the number of articles they have to show you all at once. I’m curious to see show this will work. I find myself wondering if the layout changes automatically, or if someone has to“flip the switch” on any given day.
There are also “sticky” ads that are supposed to be simultaneously more visible, and more visually pleasing. Even as someone who in part makes his living thanks to ads on this very site, I find myself wondering if there is such a thing as an ad that actually pleases people when they see it. Oh, ads can be intriguing, even interesting, but pleasing? We’ll see.
If you’re interested in what NBC themselves have to say about the redesign, there’s an older Medium post you can check out. It was published back when this new design system was first debuted, but it outlines NBCs goals for this redesign, which included things like staying away from rigid templates, making their video content feel like it belongs, a more cohesive treatment of images, improved readability, and evolving the brand (lightly).
Have a look at all three sites below, and judge them for yourselves whether they reached those goals. I think they largely have.