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Mirror inspiration
2010-07-14: It's been a while since I've taken inspiration from the Daily Mirror (John Pilger's revelations on Idi Amin come to mind) and I'm not given to liking page layouts, but I have to say I rather like the Daily Mirror's.
Daily Mirror website layout
It's based on a grid of squares forming six columns (you can click the above pic if you want a bigger version to look at) or of course you can look at the real thing (but it might have changed since I wrote this blog .. it will be interesting to compare).
The very top line has some stuff I don't understand, so we'll skip merrily over that. Next is a bit of centering and localisation: date, time, weather. Of course once you enter your location they have some demographics and localisation stuff about you which helps them target their business.
Then we have the masthead followed by a top level menu which divides the newspaper into the themed pages .. so if you're the sort of person who reads a newspaper from the back (ie. sport first), then you can do that with the top menu.
After that, hot topics, so some quick links to where the buzz is. It's a newspaper after all.
Next up, some squares which function a bit like ads .. graphic tempters to get us to click and dive in to the newspaper. The text is nicely formatted, nothing fancy, and the button style is straightforward and anchors the eye nicely, even though it exists in various colour combinations it's always in the same place, and always the same shape.
Those colours are themed. Yellow is news, cerise is celebrity, and green is sport.
On this screencapture, the yellow headline and the text underneath is rather obscured and doesn't work well. When I decided this layout was working well (on a Mac) those yellow headlines stood out more so I wonder if, on my browser, I'm missing a transparent background maybe. There are a few varieties of this text, the 'porn addiction' headline shows one variation, and the Holly Willoughby one another. The 'football challenge' one looks a bit wayward.
Yeah, here's how it looks on a newish Mac: The Mirror Newspaper website on a Mac. Testing, my friends (it works lower down so it's not a lacking capability of my browser).
The main news item has a variation all of its own using the striking classic combination of black, white and red for impact.
The first three columns seem to contain hard news, the 4th column more lifestyle items and the final two columns contain ads, which is also where the ad is in the masthead. This allows the user to filter that content out until they want it.
So given those graphical rules, those items can be delivered by software objects, and the re-arrangement can be automated according to how many clicks. That might be how we would do it, but I'm tempted to think that newspaper people would want control of that. They know what they are doing on the page, they do it every day.
After another row of ads, we have six squares of celebrity news .. this time the headlines and copy do have a background colour.
After that, six themed columns. Again these stories' positions could be automatically calculated from clicks or placed there by whoever's in charge of those pages. Each has a small image for the eye to land on, and a few words of link text. Check the text .. is it tempting? Do you write your headlines that well? What tricks do they use to tempt us in?
Then we are into another space .. it's a bit like passing through a hedge at the end of a long garden to find the vegetable patch. Here we have three double columns, one which is explicit about showing the stories that readers are interacting with the most. Then it's popular videos. Then popular pictures.
The hot topics menu is back again (it's the same as the one above), and then we are into the links for specific parts of the newspaper and website .. here's where you would go if you want something specific, the crossword or agony aunt, for instance. Interestingly, they are happy to break the six column layout here.
Finally there are links to, I presume, co-operating businesses or businesses the group owns: 'find a job', etc. and then then usual page 'furniture' links.
In terms of user journeys, part of the function of a newspaper is to provide us with interesting news so, perhaps unusually, we often go to a newspaper site in order to be distracted, to see what's happening. However for those who are there for 'sport', 'politics' or specific sections of the paper, those links are available. Other desired journeys will be linked to news stories: "have they caught the killer yet?", "what's the cricket score?", "why was the M4 blocked this morning?" and will often be satisfied by those graphic news links.
I just think as a way of organising an awful lot of information (the output of 554 editorial staff working over three publications: the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and The People), it works rather well.
It appears some of the journalists' judgment is being automated, according to this story about redundancies at the Mirror group.

By John Allsopp
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