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4 Pro Web Design Techniques for Publishers

Great storytelling never gets old, but local publishers need more than just stellar content to stand out in today’s online landscape.

The best web design techniques for publishers don’t just optimize content, they also help publishers earn their audience’s trust at the same time.

At Web Publisher PRO, we look at a publication’s specific niche to identify which keystone elements are going to maximize that publisher’s revenue and encourage digital growth. We also place the reader experience at the top of our list of web design fundamentals, showing publishers how small tweaks to their website design techniques can influence the way readers interact with content.

But here’s the secret. The best web design techniques for publishers are actually pretty simple to implement. They don’t require special tools or magical formulas—just a willingness to think strategically about how to improve the way visitors interact with your website.

Here are a few of the top web design techniques that professionals use to draw readers to, and keep them engaged with the content on, local publishing websites.

1. Use more infographics.

Infographics generate an incredible 2.3x more social shares than how-to posts, according to data from Buzzsumo, and who isn’t interested in having their content go viral?

People trust data more than reporters’ own opinions, so it pays to include data visualizations—like infographics and charts—whenever possible on a local news website.

From a web design perspective, data visualizations on a local publisher’s site should be large and clearly labeled. If an infographic has to be small for reasons having to do with the publisher’s website layout, then readers should at least be able to click on the infographic to expand it.

2. Don’t forget the images.

We all know that words matter, but images matter, too. There’s a reason why viral content almost always includes a visual element. People like seeing pictures.

One of the most common web design techniques used by professionals is to include plenty of space for large images on a website’s homepage. Images draw readers in and make them want to learn more. That applies on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, of course, but it applies to local publisher websites, as well.

In looking at what makes content go viral, Xerox found that colorful visual elements make people 80% more likely to read a product guide. Sure, Xerox wasn’t looking at local news websites specifically with its research, but the same thought applies. Putting large, high-resolution images above the fold on a news website encourages people to scroll down and read more.

Original images are best, but stock photos and illustrations will also work in a pinch. A study by Claremont Graduate University found that an image—any image, actually—increases the credibility of content by 75%. So there’s no excuse not to include some visual image with every article that goes up on your website.

3. Minimize clicks.

Every forced click is an opportunity for a reader to leave your website. When the New York Times undertook its major website redesign, the publishing company implemented single scrolls from top to bottom on article pages, which meant readers could finish entire stories—even long stories—without having to click to continue on a new page. Once the New York Times made the change, local publishers quickly started following suit.

If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember a time when scrolling was taboo. But the mobile web is changing longstanding web design techniques, and designers for news publishers have found a new appreciation for scrolling in the past few years. Single scrolls make pages seamless and easy for readers to digest. Today, single scrolling pages are one of the key web design techniques for publishers.

4. Mega navigation is here to stay.

Mega navigation menus are everywhere right now. From a reader’s perspective, the mega navigation menu makes it easier to browse content by section or category.

Web designers are pushing this trend for their clients, as well, because mega navigation menus let publishers create deeper links without relying on multiple “flyout menus.” These navigation menus span the entire width of a page, which means the designer can fit at least three or four columns in a single dropdown menu. Think of all the real estate that saves on the website.

The best mega navigation menus have bolded headers than stand out from the rest of the links as readers skim through the columns and look for sub-links. Publishers can even add images to their dropdowns. The visuals break up all the text and make it easier for readers to understand which content is listed in which category.

The web design techniques professional designers are recommending to their local publishing clients are always evolving, but the best websites are setup in a way that makes it easy for publishers to adapt. If you’d like an assessment of your existing website, we’re always happy to chat.

By: Stephanie Miles