one cheer for TNR’s re-re-design

TNR has addressed the image treatment/article heading problems we earlier this year filed under “discounted countenance” and “face of the faceless.” I never attempted to capture all aspects of that prior design or re-design or pre-re-re-design, but other elements have also been adjusted, with mixed to dysfunctional results.

As for the image treatments, this:

TNR-re-re-design

has replaced this:

another_man_without_a_face

The re-re-design also makes a “search” box more prominent, as will be obvious in a comparison of the top areas in the above two images. The old search was hard to find, so the new placement and familiar magnifying-glass icon qualify as an improvement up to average, but the actual search implementation is still hinky.

Like many touchscreen- rather than desktop-oriented implementations, the design encourages “tapping-to-get-to” rather than visual scanning. More problematic, and I suspect indirectly related, it yields unexpected and even frustrating results. When I tried searching for articles on or by individuals of interest, I at first got an apparently ludicrously small number of hits: It looked at first as though the New Republic in all of it archives managed a total of three or four pieces mentioning, say, “Nixon” or “John Judis” – with no immediately apparent option for improving the results.

When I start over and return to the original search pop-up – an intermediate menu – I can find a fourth choice, in a group next to “Topics,” that gets me to a more conventional paginated results list representing hundreds of hits on “Nixon.” If there are advanced features for narrowing the results, there are no indications, and there is no “help” or “information” option.

Judis search resultsFinding works by particular authors can be even trickier: It turns out that if you enter an author’s last name, you can eventually find your way to his or her author page with a (seemingly) comprehensive list of articles, but, if you’re too specific with a name, you might find yourself wondering if someone you like to read at TNR has been fired and turned into a non-person: A search for “John B Judis” yields no results. A search for “John Judis” yields only two results on an apparent “John Judis” author page. A search for “Judis” gives you a choice of  authors “John B Judis” and “John Judis.” It turns out that the former links to the archive you really want – unless you happen to want one of the two articles that show up on the “John Judis” page but not on the “John B Judis” page. So, “John B Judis” is the name-title and part of the slug/URL for the generated archive page, even though “John B Judis” is a zero searchwise. Such glitches are likely artifacts of the search implementation (how it indexes content), a common but not insuperable challenge, probably compounded by trendy “mobile-first” design assumptions already mentioned.

What’s perhaps a bit more odd is that TNR seems, probably unintentionally, to be de-emphasizing authorship, and not just with generic, content-minimal (no bios), on-the-fly, incidentally difficult-to-find author pages. Clickable author by-lines do appear on the home page and single-post pages, and lead to the author pages, but are nowhere to be found on category main pages – for “The Latest” or “Magazine” or “The Plank” (TNR’s multi-author blog) – and the re-re-design does not anywhere offer a consolidated menu or masthead of authors. If I were a TNR writer trying to build my “personal brand” – which is what we all live for in 2014, of course – I’d be annoyed, but, sooner rather than later, I suspect, someone influential will recognize or be induced to recognize the defect, or consequential insult, and make amends.


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3 comments on “one cheer for TNR’s re-re-design

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  1. Back to the photos – I recall a TNR guy commenting on your previous post about stock photos ie they used the big black headline box because they mostly used stock photos, so the quality wasn’t what it might be, so it’s ok you can’t see them. This struck me as odd or disingenuous at the time. Why bother with photos at all if they suck vs “this is the best reason I can come up with”.

    So now I like that they let the viewer see the photo, (stock photo certainly does not equal sucky photo) although the black box headline still looks odd to my eye.

    • I don’t think that the designer – Ryan McManus – was being “disingenuous” at least in the sense of dishonest. I think he really meant it. On the other hand, the revealed images can be kind of fun anyway: It’s not as though the photographers and their editors or employers are uniformly utterly uncultured and afraid to be imaginative. The photo above of Reid may be stock or stockish, but it still catches Reid at an amusing moment, depicting him as a master conductor of sorts. There’s an article on the site now about Timothy Geithner that catches him looking quite puckish, if not a bit deranged or even a bit satanic, which’s kind of how I’ve always thought of him. It’s at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117741/timothy-geithner-reveals-himself-his-new-book, though, if you’re wary about using up your TNR free access allotment (too late for me, alas!), here’s a version I was able to locate:

  2. I think the problem with Herbert Croly’s publication is content, not appearance, after a poor start, Ioffe has been pretty good on Russia, Snyder on the greater region, but it’s hard to think of a writer that stands out, in recent past, and journolisters like Schrieber don’t count,

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