Redesigning the Star’s article pages

In the Digital Product team at Torstar we use design and user insights to elevate and optimize the experience of reading news online in new and innovative ways. We use Design Thinking, a framework that helps accelerate creative processes and solve business problems to help us come up with innovative solutions for new products and to improve our existing ones. We recognize that great products are created only when we truly understand our customers.

Planning the redesign

Late summer 2018 we began planning a way to re-imagine how the Star displays articles. We decided to do a Design Sprint to kick-start our thinking around how our customers read our stories online. We had some specific things we wanted to address: the bounce rate on our most popular pages was not at a number that was acceptable to us and we wanted to use design in a more strategic way. It was also an opportunity to elevate the overall experience using design thinking and agile.

Before:

thestar.com article page before it was re-designed

When examining the current state of the article, there was a lot of noise before the article started, the social icons were given too much prominence and the design was outdated and not considered holistically. Over time, aesthetics have changed and reader expectations have changed. The site had become outdated.

After:

thestar.com article page redesigned

Overall we utilized Star-specific brand elements including the Torstar font, and existing design patterns to establish visual tone unique to Torstar properties. We took visual cues from the print product to better align brand equity across all mediums. A stronger visual presence was created by improving readability, improving how we display media and we improved the UI component scale to look more contemporary and refined but remain clean.

Additionally we have a new mobile first nav, AODA support including larger fonts, better contrast, optimal line lengths for reading on all devices on all orientations, in-brief overview for “scanners”, hidden captions to reduce scroll depth, support for Trust Labels.

With this redesign we have been able to enhance the overall reading experience. By redesigning our article pages we hope to entice users to stay on the site for much longer than had been before. The longer our readers stay with us, the more opportunity we have to learn about the kinds of content they want to see, and then give them more of that content.

The fun now begins as we see whether the approach we landed on will deliver the results we expect. We will be monitoring all possible stats, usage changes and conducting further tests with users as we continue to optimize the experience.

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