Despite his last name, Isaac Showman isn't a fan of big, dramatic website unveilings.
That's why, if you visit Reuters.com this morning, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary — until you visit an article page. For the last few months, the international newswire has quietly been working on a major overhaul of its story-level pages that go live today.
The changes aim to remake Reuters.com from a news website into a news utility, said Showman, managing director at Reuters. The distinction between the two?
"A lot of news websites are a reflection of newspaper design," Showman said. "Essentially, the premium is on the storytelling and on the presentation of that storytelling. When you’re developing a utility — of course storytelling is important — but what’s critical is what you’re helping the news consumer to do."
In Reuters' case, that means helping people make important decisions quickly, Showman said. They want information that's accurate and relevant, and they want it fast. They also want context around that information — where is the story happening? What are its financial implications? And, lastly, how is it relevant to them?
The redesigned article page has several major tweaks to give people what they want when they want it, Showman said.
- It's faster. Reuters has re-engineered the site for speed, cutting down the time it takes most browsers to render a page by more than 50 percent. Stories now load for most users in under a second, a feat that required "substantially rewriting core parts of our technology and advertising infrastructure," Showman said.
- Maps, stocks and video. Alongside each article are new content widgets that provide readers with important supplemental information related to each story. You can check how a story develops in a region over time, for example, or view a particularly relevant quote.
- New navigation. Who uses the navigation tabs at the top of websites, anyway? Showman thinks more people would actually click on them if they weren't the same old options every time — news, features, arts, etc. — remnants of newspaper design. Reuters has converted the space normally reserved for site navigation to extra real estate for trending topics (links that people might actually want to click on, Showman said).
- Personalization (and not-quite infinite scroll). To maximize engagement, the new Reuters.com will automatically serve readers five articles — one below the other — that correspond to their interests. "The more you come to our site, the more useful the website will be," Showman said.
- New advertising. With ad-blocking on the rise and Facebook and Google sucking up vast quantities of the market share, Reuters has nonetheless made new digital display advertising units a centerpiece of the redesign. The new site has room for interval ad units (native in-line placements), canvas ad units ("bold, full-width branding placements") and content marketing packages (sponsored content created by Reuters' brand studio). Synchrony Financial, a Connecticut-based financial services company, has signed on to be the first advertiser for the new full-width ad units.
Reuters started its redesign with the article page, like so many other news outlets, because it's the page most people see, Showman said. Like nearly every other publisher, Reuters gets a huge readership boost from audiences coming directly from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. For those readers, many of whom don't ever visit the homepage, the article page is a critical first step to making a good impression.
This latest update won't be the last word on the matter from Reuters — a web developer's work is never done — but it represents a first step on its path to reimagine what its website should be, Showman said.
“Is this the last redesign we’re going to do? Of course not," Showman said. "In the future, I’m sure someone will evolve this.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the redesign process started with the homepage. That's incorrect, it started with the article page. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error.