OK guys, the business journalist in me is freaking out. Bloomberg just launched a super ambitious new site. It’s completely different than the way the old Bloomberg News site looked and navigated, and I’ve been playing on it for over an hour now. Since I can’t review the whole site, I’m going to focus my attention on this story, which is the web treatment of a cover story in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Let’s get to it. Right of the bat, the title is freaking huge. So huge, in fact, that I can barely squeeze the title and subhead into my browser without scrolling. The hot pink/blue border thing around the article seems like an interesting choice, and may make sense in a story about maternity leave. The border, however, actually extends to all of the magazine’s content, so the color scheme isn’t meant to convey anything about male/female babies. I’m not sure why those colors were chosen for the magazine, but I can say that they fit in with how Bloomberg brands itself. Bloomberg’s New York offices (for the sake of disclosure to anyone who stumbles upon this post: I’ll be interning there starting in June) are pretty big on the use of rainbow and Helvetica. Turns out the byline of the story is hidden in comparatively tiny type in the blue side of the border (you can make out a smidgen of it in the first screenshot). No points for easy readability there; I missed it on my first scroll. The story and its images and graphics are laid out in an intuitive format. The basic formula: scroll down to read the story, be periodically interrupted by a large pull quote/photo illustration/graphic, continue to read, repeat. Everything is centered and the visually elements are massive. Interestingly, the pull quotes splash onto the screen in a way that reminds me of the text motion tool in PowerPoint that I used way too much circa 2005. The slight sideways slant of the text isn’t as easy to read as the straight headline, but it does make the page a tad more visually interesting.
The whole animated pull quote is weirdly aggressive, but I am a big fan of that little purple bar that runs across the top of the screen. That tells you how far you are in the article, which is nice because the Bloomberg has an endless(ish) scroll so the position of your scroll bar tells you nothing about where you are in a single article. The photo illustrations and graphics in the story are very large and fill the screen. Interestingly, if you full-screen your browser the photos get smaller and the body text becomes left/right aligned (alignment flip-flops throughout). I prefer the left/right aligned layout with the smaller photos, but I also hate having a full screen browser. It’s a tradeoff, I guess.
The last thing I want to talk about is the story’s graphic. Bloomberg has an interactive graphics team that does some phenomenal work. On this story, we get only a static graphic. Frankly, I found all the lines and arrows kind of difficult to interpret. I was confused by the percentages until I realized that they were percentages of earnings (mentioned once in small font) and I guess this graphic doesn’t scream to me “the U.S.’s maternity leave system lags behind every country except Papua New Guinea” the way the article text did.
This online article didn’t have the same super intense, interactive user experience that some of Bloomberg’s content does, but it was interesting to understand what a standard Bloomberg Businessweek cover story looks like on the new website. While the article’s copy was top-notch and the photo illustrations were compelling, I think more interactivity in the story’s graphic could have enhanced the way a user interacts with the story.