FT redesign: modern, readable and accessible

, . Filed under Web.

Reading The Guardian’s tech supplement this morning, I came across a rather intemperate criticism of the FT’s home page redesign.  Andrew Brown (when he’s not arguing that dyslexia is a condition suffered solely by the lower orders) makes the following comments about the FT’s home page:

  • the page doesn’t contain as much information as it used to
  • the font size and leading are too big
  • it looks like it was designed for a mobile phone screen
  • it’s ugly, uninformative and ‘actively confusing’ (as opposed to something that is passively confusing, presumably)—no details of how or why it’s these things, unfortunately

The overriding theme is that it has been designed for people who can’t and ‘don’t want to read’.  There is a surprising (bearing in mind it’s in The Guardian) snobbishness here; it reads more like The Telegraph.

All nonsense, of course, and the design should be saluted for breaking from the current convention for super-complex grids, content-overload and headers stuffed with 75 links.

So here’s what the FT does well:

  • Just 2 main columns
  • Big font sizes for easier scanning, cognition and reading, especially by the paper’s older demographic
  • A sane navigation bar with just 9 links (The Guardian has 26, in different pretty colours, to boot)
  • The light pink background (this is so clever - it matches the famous colour of the print version while providing some texture)
  • 1 sentence summaries of the stories
  • Simple, logical rules
  • Blue links
  • Displaying a relatively small amount of content on the home page (making it easier to comprehend and scan), thereby demonstrating respect for its readers by allowing them to find relevant content, just as they would when reading the print version
  • Calling itself Financial Times rather than financialtimesonline or financialtimes.co.uk.  It therefore suggests that the online and print versions of the paper are of equal importance

In short, all great things that The Guardian’s site isn’t.

It’s perhaps a surprise that such a traditional, conservative publication has led the way in designing a home page that is fully aware of the constraints and possibilities of the medium, while Britain’s greatest liberal paper adopts such a narrow, backward looking view.  It’s the FT that’s leading newspaper design into the modern era.