About a week ago, after many months of planning and executing the new design you see today, I took a journey into the recent past of MotherJones.com via Archive.org’s excellent Wayback Machine. The tool allows you to view websites as they appeared at specific moments in the history of the internet, and I wanted some context for this homepage redesign, my first. We were, after all, the first nongeek magazine to go online way back in 1993, and I was nervous for the launch.
Looking back over the last four designs, they tell a story that you, dear loyal reader, probably know by now. It’s the story of our rapid recent growth, from a great little magazine to a high-powered 24/7 news org. My bosses, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffrey, recently received a major award and the committee put it rather nicely:
Mother Jones under Jeffery and Bauerlein has been transformed from what was a respected—if under-the-radar—indie publication to an internationally recognized, powerhouse general-interest periodical influencing everything from the gun-control debate to presidential campaigns. In addition to their success on the print side, Jeffery and Bauerlein’s relentless attention to detail, boundless curiosity and embrace of complex subjects are also reflected on the magazine’s increasingly influential website, whose writers and reporters often put more well-known and deep-pocketed news divisions to shame.
We’ve been on a three-year cycle with our redesigns, and a lot has changed around here since the last update in January 2011. The 47 percent video happened, record traffic growth happened, more record traffic growth happened, and we hired a lot of people, expanded collaborations, and won a lot of awards. Our website now has nearly 6 million monthly unique visitors, and we’re on pace to do 150 million pageviews this year, and that’s before factoring in the upcoming midterm elections, which we’ll cover the dickens out of.
Close observers of online media are well aware that homepages just don’t matter as much as they used to. Facebook and Twitter send us enormous amounts of traffic, and all those folks skip over the landing pages and go directly to the stories. Nevertheless, 1 out of every 6 pageviews to the desktop version of MotherJones.com is to the homepage. It’s still important.
So what are you getting here, exactly?
- Bigger images. Much of the new design is informed by a desire for more, and larger, images on the site. Images are the killer app of the internet and the big boys—Facebook and Twitter and the rest—are becoming increasingly visual media. We now feature much larger images at the top of the homepage, channel pages, and topics pages. We’ve replaced the old five-item slider with a striking new treatment that doesn’t bury stories behind each other and stops autorotating when the reader takes control. The same large images are now displayed at the top in the default layout for our articles and blog posts. They’re also being delivered at a new aspect ratio that’s designed to pop on Twitter and in the Facebook news feed. We’ve also added a very large image to the homepage to promote our high-quality photojournalism.
- Better-organized content that reflects the growth of what we do. Scroll down past the new slider and you’ll see that we’ve organized our content in a number of new ways. Established MoJo brands like Kevin Drum, David Corn, Econundrums, and Tom Philpott now have dedicated spaces where readers will always be able to find their latest stories. We’re also choosing to focus on the many different ways we now tell stories. There is a video section, an interactives section, a longreads section, and the new, larger treatment for photojournalism. Lastly, the bottom third of the page is dominated by a rotating selection of topics. Here we’ll present the latest stories from a curated list of nine topics showcasing the breadth and depth of our coverage. You can click through to full verticals, including the archives, for all of these.
- Revamped channel pages. Our three main channels of Politics, Environment, and Culture have finally gotten the landing pages they deserve. These pages really serve as alternate portals to Mother Jones for readers with specific interests. In addition to the latest stories from our reporters, we’ve added a column to these pages that highlights our recent visual journalism—charts, maps, interactives, photo essays, video, etc.—in the channel.
- A corner for the Climate Desk. This journalistic collaboration (learn more about it here) has really taken off in the last year, and it was high time it got some permanent real estate on our homepage. You’ll see a list of the latest headlines from the Climate Desk, along with the most recent episode of our fast-growing Inquiring Minds podcast and the next event listing in our Climate Desk Live series.
Over the next year, our supertalented tech team will be building an elegant new backend for the site. After that, we’ll do this again, and I promise we won’t wait three years next time. In the meantime, we’d love your feedback on the changes in the comments below.