USA Today’s new logo (right) is a modern take on its classic counterpart. Image via underconstruction.com

The massive USA Today media brand had a lot at stake when it launched a radically new design in print and on the web last month. People read USA Today because it’s familiar. The paper has been around for 30 years and this is its first major rebrand.

Back in 1982, when USA Today first introduced colour in newspapers, there were naysayers who thought it looked cluttered. Then, it became the norm. So no surprise that the brand is once again leading the way in newspaper design – particularly on the web.

Not a newspaper

The new USA Today website was designed by Fantasy Interactive. In an interview with Poynter, global creative director Anton Repponen says the paper’s previous web layout limited itself by trying to replicate the printed version. The new site looks like it was designed with tablet readers in mind, with large arrows to flip through pages and full-screen interactive ads that appear between stories. Repponen calls the website “a web-based app,” insisting “it is news, but it’s not a newspaper.”

screenshot of USA Today

The visuals dominate each section of the USA Today website. Arrows on each side of the screen allow users to easily flip through content on whatever device they’re using.

Major changes

USA Today discussed some of the changes in this video, but a few of the most notable changes include:

      • A renewed focus on visuals. If you head over to the website, you will see that there are large images that dictate the design as well as ads that rotate on the landing page of certain sections. Publisher Larry Kramer explained in an interview that “the new design was driven largely by a desire to give advertisers a new type of digital canvas with which to work.”

The “cover view” feature lets users scroll through the cover images of each section.

      • A “horizontal Web experience.” Users browse through various sections (travel, sports, etc.) horizontally, using arrows on either side of the screen, while using the scroll bar to browse vertically within each section. As Poynter put it, the “seamless flow creates a more continuous reading experience, unlike the abrupt stop and start of headline-driven reading.”

Click on one of the sections’ headlines and the story is opened in a pop out “layer,” rather than opening in a distinct page. The toolbar at the bottom of the page stays in place, and gives users options to share, print or comment on the story.

  • No more breadcrumbs or “back” button. This was a risky move, and at first it’s a bit disorienting. When you click on a story it pops up as a new layer on top of the section it belongs to. There is also a toolbar at the bottom of the article, which remains in place even as you scroll through the story. Unlike most newspaper websites, the article pages layers prominently feature the author’s headshot and bio, adding a uniquely personal and social layer to the reading experience.

What do you think of USA Today’s web redesign? Is this a glimpse into the future of online content or just a trendy attempt at reviving an old media brand? Let us know in the comments below.