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Indy Star Web site shows most original use of Gannett redesign to date

In case you haven’t been paying attention, or in case you don’t look at Gannett newspaper Web sites… They’re all going to the GO4 design. There will be a definite Gannett feel from Palm Springs, Calif., to White Plains, N.Y.

My paper‘s redesign is supposed to go live on March 31. I’ve been told it will most closely resemble the Asbury Park Press in color scheme and design. But I haven’t actually seen it yet to compare.

The Indy Star, my paper’s big sister in Indiana, has posted a link to view its beta version of the redesign. You can view that here. They have a FAQ about the design here.

Here’s the before and after screen shot earlier today (click for larger):

IndyStar design before GO4


IndyStar beta version of GO4 design

Note: That big beige blob is a blocked ad, not a design flaw.

What Indy did right

I trolled through most of the Gannett newspaper Web sites this afternoon to see how Indy compared to others. I’d seen several on the new design before. But Indy is the first I’ve noticed that took the concept and really made it its own thing, not its own version of the template. If that makes sense.

Even the Detroit Free Press, which appears to have gone with the same basic color scheme and fonts as Indy, just looks like a version of the template. Whereas, Indy really owns its design.

Here’s what the Star’s staff thinks are the 10 things you need to know about it’s redesign. (You should especially watch video #4 because they feature MY story about the Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy — which spent about half that day as their top featured story as well as the J&C’s — to show off their readability. Awesome.)

Here are a few features that jumped out or intrigued me about the new site and why:

You can move and reorder the content boxes on the home page.

This feature is far and away my favorite take on the boxes. It puts me in control of what news appears at the top of the page. For instance, I can move sports to the bottom. I can move entertainment to the top. Or I can leave Community News but I can pick only news relevant to my community (if I were in the Indy Star area that is). Note the blue arrows in the corner of the Community and Biz sections in this image.

moveable context boxes

Back to the top…

The find it menu bar at the top:
jobs find it bar
apartments find it bar

Sure it’s simple. But this item at the very top of every page is sleek. The images are inviting and show me what I’m clicking on. It’s a nice touch.

Dropping from the top of the page to the very bottom…

This site index appears at the end of every page. I like it because it gives me a comprehensive guide to what all is available at IndyStar.com. Also handy if I’m looking for something specific, like education or crime stories.
site index at the bottom

On a related note…

I’m a fan of the drop down menus at the top. They let you drill down the content from any page. You can choose to see your news if you’re into a specific region of Indy, for example, as in this screenshot:
communities drop down menu

There are similar drop downs on the other communities and sections on that top menu. In News, for example, you can break down by the type of coverage. So if you’re into politics, you can click that or go even more specific with legislature.

(This feature, btw, isn’t unique to Indy or even new to that version of the site. It’s just one of the things I like about the GO4 design.)

A few other things to note:

Video on the story page?! According to Numero 3 in their top 10 things to know package at least. I couldn’t find it in my searches.

I have to say this is my biggest pet peeve after annoying drop-down advertisements about the Star and any newspaper Web site that sends me to another page to view video. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate — I’m not sure hate is even a strong enough word for my animosity — the way the videos are currently handled at the Star and most Gannett sites (my own paper’s included). Where they throw up the videos all on one page with a one paragraph note (sometimes) and a byline and it just plays. Sure, there’s a place for that type of depository for videos. It’s not what I want when I’m specifically interested in one specific video related to one specific story.

Reporters pictures with their bylines on stories? It appears that way, at least on some stories:
Reporter photo with byline on stories

I’m kind of curious if one of the Indy reporters wasn’t the one who wrote into Ask The Recruiter last month with a concern about reporters pictures. Even if it was, it was an interesting conundrum then as it is now. But that’s the topic of another, and I’ll even go ahead and say forthcoming, post. Suffice to say me personally, I wouldn’t mind. But I don’t cover high profile murder or gang cases either. Yes it can be annoying to be stopped by wackos who recognize I work for the newspaper, but it can also be a great source of story ideas when parents randomly recognize me in the hallways.

I’m not sure that was the reasoning behind the Star’s move. I’m guessing it had more to do with creating that social-networking feel of everybody being everybody’s friend and neighbor. Or something like that. I haven’t really dug into many of the other GO4 designs to see if this is standard practice or a unique Indy element.

OK, OK. Enough. That’s just a quick summary of some of the things I liked. There are bound to be plenty of other cool things below the surface once I start to interact with the site more. For now, that’s a general overview of things that are different from before.

About GO4

It could be worse. It could be the old Knight-Ridder template that was never innovative and really served no purpose except to throw up as many links on the front page as possible. It could be as ugly as the old Gannett template many papers still have as their backbone. It’s really not.

In many ways I really like the design. It will take some getting used to, but it’s aesthetically pleasing. The color choices I’ve seen seem to work well together. There’s a lot of information, but it’s not link-happy. It’s both more and less restrictive than many papers’ current designs. It’s more engaging and interactive for the readers as well.

It will also feature social networking platform(?) Pluck, a la USA Today, instead of the myriad methods patched together based on forums, topix, Get Published, etc.

My only hold-back is I still don’t know how much I like taking the power to determine the best design for the local readers out of the local hands. For many papers, especially smaller papers, this will be a God-send and get them out of the 1990s design-wise. For others, like the IndyStar, this has meant really working hard to work within the system without being a slave to it. I hope we see more papers going the Indy way.

If you care, here’s a list of the sites across Gannett where I’ve seen the redesign go live:

(* The Freep has the design live, but its header image says beta still.
** These sites don’t have “live” beta sites featured just yet.)

I’m sure that’s not a complete list. But it’s good enough to show a range of the color schemes and how similar they all look.

6 Responses to “Indy Star Web site shows most original use of Gannett redesign to date”

  1. Mandy Jenkins Says:

    The reason IndyStar’s is so good is because they are one of the very few sites that corporate let do their own take on the design. They worked hand-in-hand with corporate todevelop what will be known as the GO4 1.1 template set for metros. Detroit also got that permission and cooperation.

    We would have loved to have been able to customize our site here in Cincinnati, but alas, we have very limited access to our own templates (which is quite a change from the past). We’ll be trying to find ways to do our own customization, but we’ll end up looking a lot more like the little guys.

  2. Meranda Says:


    I figured they got some type of special permission. Because the Web guys I talked to here when we were first starting toward our design said everyone was going to look practically identical. But it’s interesting to see how varied Indy and Freep are based on the same basic design. I think Indy took it a lot farther with great results.

    I don’t think I actually stated this in the entry, but it’s worth pointing out, I think the GO4 design is pretty good. It does a lot of things and will enable more participation at a deeper and more intrinsic level than most media Web sites today. This is a good thing.

    I just harp about IndyStar a lot. (Search for that name in my search bar and you’ll see.) So I thought while I was going to talk about the design we’re headed toward, I should give some kudos where it’s due as well.

  3. Mandy Jenkins Says:

    Yeah, Indy really went all the way in their redesign, lots of attention to detail, lots of customized style sheets and in-house javascript….no wonder they were way past their scheduled launch date. It helps to have as many programmers as they do (not to mention a larger-than-average online staff for a paper their size). All metros – hell, all papers – would do well to follow that example.

  4. AaronSpencer.com » CMS and social media team up Says:

    […] I already knew about SAXOTECH’s content management system and Pluck’s social networking platform teaming up in the online news world. The partnership is a big part of Gannett’s GO4 design for its papers’ Web sites. But I missed this story last Friday. […]

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  6. name Says:

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