Background The 138 year old Hindu is among India’s most venerated dailies. An early adopter of the web, the site no longer reflected its young readership’s idea of a newspaper web front. A more contemporary and capable site was needed to work well across devices: on mobiles, the choice of medium for the young, as well as on large screens.
In close collaboration with the editorial team we set about understanding The Hindu’s unique connect with its readers, and why it occupies such a key place in the news landscape.
Our Approach The path to renewed relevance passed through modernization; but it was not an easy one. Long time loyalist preferences had to be negotiated along with the expectations of a young reader for whom the Hindu is a valued, but not an exclusive read.
The Hindu offers an extremely rich bouquet of content, archived material to developing stories; statistics, sports features, city-specific content (16 editions) and each of these content types had distinct uses for different readers. Our goal was to forefront the reportage, drawing attention but without derailing the scanning process.
Second, a large number of content vehicles were designed to organize each kind of news across several screen resolutions. Our visual approach balanced energy and stability, ensuring that the valuable and reliable content is bolstered by contemporary design, multimedia value additions, smart technology and easy readability via good typographic and graphic decisions and easy discoverability by smart widgets.
Process We started with analytics results and extrapolated insights about user behavior and consumption patterns.
In the second stage we plotted the new Information Architecture (IA)/User Experience (UX) for the site, allowing easy and intuitive ways of content discovery.
After extensive discussions and finalisation of the IA we designed detailed wireframes of every page to map user flow, simplify navigation and thereby reducing cognitive burden. We ensured that the reader gets value for every click with the right editorial and design interventions resulting in an increased page / site stay.
Content We introduced new sections to individually amplify the rich content for which the Hindu is highly regarded. Key sections were identified for better personalisation possibilities in future.
The entire site was structured in horizontal sections to give the reader a distinct feel of news zones. It allows the reader to instantly hide, follow, or visit a more detailed landing page of that particular section.
Handy navigation via sticky header, correct placement of subscription requests and proper placement of the social media sharing options responded to quick sharing impulses of the reader. Thus, making personalisation and social media referrals more active and likely.
Home everywhere Section pages, topic pages and article pages were treated equal to the home page. A reader could arrive at the site from any source; social media, email referrals or by organic search, therefore each page and section was designed to give a 360 view of the entire site’s content.
The main masthead also allows the editorial team to highlight key trending topics accompanied by special coverage to which readers can get instant access.
Similarly, the same masthead in article pages showcases ‘Just In’ article headlines to invite readers who arrive directly to the article page to explore more.
Form follows content To help The Hindu establish itself as a creator of superior, diverse content for new readers as well as old patrons, we devised a new section called Hindu Specials, a curated section of editorial articles with a longer shelf life.
'Packages', 'Series', were old specials, to which we added 'Case Files' and a 'Microsite'. These specials were given distinct treatment, position and visibility to enhance reader engagement. It makes possible for a reader to choose and curate all news related to a particular topic at one place. As The Hindu often acts a reference website for accurate information on data-driven news such as elections, such microsites attract readers, researchers and advertisers alike who are looking at a single source for all their information needs. The same template could be used for other important long-running news across categories like sports, entertainment, environment and social issues.
Visual Design Cardified news headlines and lead text approach, make it possible for each headline to be shared individually on social media. The specials have a distinct treatment to invite attention and stand out. The right hand side column houses more important articles; trending topics as well as editor’s selection, making the whole horizontal sectioning, a rich, complete and satisfying experience unit for the reader.
The mobile view was simplified for better navigation and user engagement while keeping the key decisions same across all devices.
Engaging widgets for stories were devised and entertainment and sports were given a livelier look by a change in colour and dynamic carrousel design.
Typography All font decisions across the site were taken after testing on various screen formats, keeping in mind great readability across devices. We worked with the constraint of designing within a 1000 px width which made the choice of typeface critical for a great throw and a smooth reading experience.
Tundra, a serif font, designed for great reading experience for web and mobile devices, was finally selected after strenuous testing. Its larger x-height and yet the humanist touch of old school serif fonts made it the right choice for this site.
Two typefaces, Fira Sans and Modern Sans serif were chosen to highlight current and happening news. It balanced the Hindu personality as well as cued change. Choice of typeface sizes, style and occasional use of colour signalled new relevance for the new Hindu readers.
The redesigned website won the ‘Best news website’
at the South Asian Digital Media Awards 2017 presented by WAN-IFRA. This is the first time the Hindu website, a two decades old website, has won this award.