UPDATE: MSNBC.com has posted a tour of the new story pages.
MSNBC.com has rolled out some changes to its Web site, including a slightly modified graphical look and a dynamic new layout for story pages.
While the main structure of the homepage remains the same, the “spectrum” of color has veered away from the more vertical bursts of color to broader swashes reminiscent of the NBC peacock logo with a warped grid-like pattern overlayed on top.
This new look seems a bit brighter than the site’s old look and the grid pattern can be a bit distracting, especially when text is placed on top of it. There’s also a feeling that, especially on the homepage, designers simply “swapped out” the old imagery for the new one.
The header of the homepage expands to include top stories and other content, as shown above.
The biggest changes, however, come from the site’s inside story pages.
In addition to the standard story text, interior pages now include a more multi-faceted approach to storytelling, including a large video player placed near the top of relevant pages, scrolling photo galleries, interactive timelines and links to related content. Users can jump to all of this content quickly using floating speech-bubble link icons on the right side of the page.
Even the story’s text has an interesting spin: on longer stories, to read more, the user must click a “show more text” link to keep reading.
The bottom of each page also includes graphs that show the most popular topics on the site, along with a link to the most recent story on the subject and a trending timeline of its popularity of the past week.
It also appears the social media toolbar added to some MSNBC.com pages is now a permanent fixture.
“Our new story pages are a radical departure from standard links and photos trapped in text. We’ve reimagined what the digital news experience can be and have created an unmatched platform,” said Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher, MSNBC Digital Network. “With that same energy, we’ve created a premium environment for brands to expand beyond traditional ad formats and engage consumers in a powerful way.”
Overall, the changes are definitely an interesting approach to online storytelling, somewhat reminiscent of CNN.com’s efforts of using tabbed story pages, an approach that was all but abandoned it its most recent redesign. The new layout on MSNBC.com seems a bit disjointed at times and, while it appears efforts were made to create a cleaner look, can also come across as a bit cluttered.
The site’s use of icons to jump to other story components might be a bit confusing for some users, especially those not familiar with more innovative approaches to navigation in Web page design. In addition, the tactic of using HTML bookmarks to jump users to various locations on the page seems a bit outdated.