Journalism in the Public Interest

Take a Look at the New

We have redesigned our website to make it more usable, put things in better context and to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.

President Barack Obama wears 3-D glasses while watching the Super Bowl game in the family theater of the White House on Feb. 1, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today we're launching a brand new site.

When we first sat down to design our website in early 2008, we had just started as an organization, and we had yet to publish anything. We had only a skeleton staff. We had to create something of a Potemkin village website, guessing at the kinds of coverage we'd be doing and how we'd be presenting it. In the two years since, we've constantly tweaked the site, and have bolted on new features that we never imagined we'd be doing.

With this redesign, we've tried to take everything we've learned, and everything we've added, and put it together into one nice, clean site. Our hope is that the level of design sophistication now matches the sophistication of our reporting.

Here are some of the new elements we're excited about:

There's been a lot of talk recently in the news industry about "context," and the ways news sites can help orient readers of long-running storylines and give them a sense of the bigger picture. In that spirit, each of our new investigations pages has a "story so far" blurb, giving readers who are new to an investigation a sense of what's come before and how the article they're reading fits in.

We also took some cues from Google's Living Stories project (as well as the excellent Spokesman-Review), and are giving users who are familiar with a story the ability to filter through our sometimes-lengthy story lists. Readers can now opt to see only the articles they haven't already read, just the "major" installments in a given series (filtering out smaller updates), or just the posts by a chosen author.

Among the features we hadn't quite foreseen as being central to our work two years ago are our distributed reporting efforts (some call this "citizen journalism"), and our interactive tools and data, each of which get top billing in our top navigation. Our best tools and data applications are also now newly collected on a page of their own.

At ProPublica we want to tell stories using whatever format works best -- and sometimes that format isn't even a traditional news story. For some sprawling numbers-heavy stories, we put stories, blog posts, and interactive news features all on a single page. The goal had been to organize our work by topic and not by type of information. (A good example is our ongoing investigation into the government's loan modification program.) Our new site takes the idea a step further. The pages now have interactive boxes at the top that can pull in live data from our news applications; below that there's a running river of stories.

We want to hear from you about the new design. E-mail Scott Klein with thoughts, questions, compliments -- and any bugs you find. Some of the new features required inventing stuff. It's all been extensively tested, but you may find something we haven't spotted. If you do -- let us know!

Finally, if you're wondering, the site was designed by the folks at Mule Design in San Francisco, and in addition to our talented internal Web developers, the software development was done by Solspace. We're grateful to them all.

Did anyone look at the new site in Firefox?  The headline fonts look horrible.  They are jaggy and blocky.

Obviously, this was designed for the smoothing characteristics of IE, but a large audience uses Firefox these days, and the headline fonts look awful.

It’s the only nit I can pick with a redesign that looks excellent otherwise, on a website doing very important work very well.

Funny, when the headline read “take a look” I actually expected an illustrated walkthrough of the changes, and would have loved one.

MSNBC did this fabulously after the recent redesign. Heck I would like to do it for every site I redesign so appreciate this effort.

Nice job.

Michael Sippey

June 30, 2010, 12:17 p.m.

Congrats on the revamped site and design.  It’s fantastic work.

I think the idea way the websites highlights your investigations is excellent.

However, I scan news sites for information on environmental issues ... did you drop entirely the old menu that was allowing to select broad topics?

I am using Firefox and the headline fonts render perfectly.

This is Scott from ProPublica. Thanks for all your comments. Some quick thoughts:

1) Not only did we test in Firefox but it’s the browser we use on our workstations. We’re not seeing the problems you’re seeing with the headline typeface. If you could contact me offline (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) I’d like to see what you’re seeing.

2) Interesting idea about screencasts. If we hear more interest in that it seems quite worth doing to me, though our deadline for this relaunch was so compressed we just didn’t have time to do it pre-launch.

3) We did indeed move away from the broad topic area pages and toward more targeted topic pages, centered around the particular mix of stories we cover. We felt this information architecture made more sense given how we approach our work, and will make for fewer orphaned pages. Of course, our plans are always evolving and we may return to generic topic pages down the road. And thanks—we’re very proud of our environmental coverage. Right now the environmental story we’re covering most closely is the BP oil spill:

I love the redesign and the wonderful user interface improvements.

I also agree with the criticism that the headline fonts look pretty jagged in Firefox.

One step at the time. Good job.

Michele Zimmerman

June 30, 2010, 4 p.m.

I am reading it in Mozilla on a PC and it’s all good. Keep up the good work: when I get a job you folks get some money.
Best to you all,

Mostly great, as has been your wont; letter from Habitat for Humanity is virtually illegible

Stephen Booser

June 30, 2010, 4:54 p.m.

I think the old design was just fine. The new design is even better! Good Work!!

Charlie Morel

June 30, 2010, 6:36 p.m.

WHAT!!!??? The Super Bowl was broadcast in 3D!!!!!! Why didn’t someone tell this New Orleans Saints Fan?..LOL

Really like the clean look and presentation of news. Also, thanks for the focus on journalism and collaboration across news organizations. At this rate, who can guess what improvements you will make in the next year.

looks similar to NYTimes layout…

I think the new is great.  Also your targeting of the topics being investigated. As with all changes, some have to get used to them, almost like losing an old friend.

All-in-all a very good redesign. I have FF as follows: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/2010040121 Ubuntu/9.04 (jaunty) Firefox/3.0.19 - and there are some rough edges. Nothing that makes it unusable. As for its organization, that makes it much more usable for me.

I find it very cool indeed. Congrats for the new layout!

Michael Havel

July 1, 2010, 7:05 a.m.

Did you stop putting articles on home foreclosures? I my case I have been working with Chase since Feb 09. The horror story gets better. Every 60 days they want updated paperwork. Anyway I can understand pay stubs; but for the life of me I cant uinderstand why they need a new T4206 my tax returns dont change, I dont stop taking my social security or my retirement benefits. I am in the 5th month of a trial mod and just sent in updated fpaperwork what gives? Is there a phone number or email of a vice president I can contact this is stupid about paperwork. I believe they dont want Mods just money until you are so far behind that you cant keep your home. Can you give me some info on contacts other than a person that works in an office with 500 other people. Thank you.

Looks great.  Cheers to you all for making the great work you do better looking, more streamlined and easier to navigate!

rex govorchin

July 1, 2010, 8:04 a.m.

Same great story telling without the blue pop.

Much cleaner and more inviting.

As I am not a computer purist,I am happy as long as the quality of info continues at it’s excelent level and I can navigate your site to obtain same.

victor laughlin

July 1, 2010, 12:54 p.m.

New layout does flow better, good job

I like it I like it. I have only recently (as the employee with the greatest daily need of ‘net assistance) been allowed on-line (after 8 years - not an untrustworthy serf, Sire, only vassal to a typically computer-ignorant SURGEON!!!!!) - sorry for yelling. Since I have a vintage 1800 computer system (I’ll match it against any laptop in remotest Africa), I can not always call up article/issue histories. I love the way you have arranged updates.


July 1, 2010, 10:29 p.m.

I have not found any problem viewing this in Firefox, which is my preferred browser.

I generally like the design… a bit too white washed out.. would be nice if there was perhaps some light grey shading under the sidebar or semething to break it up.

Love it, especially the “story so far” aspect. Does Solspace’s involvement mean it’s made in Expression Engine, or would you rather not say?

RE: jagged headlines in Firefox, I developed my own site in FF and was very surprised to see that when I proofed it using Adobe’s browser lab the fonts rendered terribly. I spent much time trying to nail it down, and what I found was the Windows users of FF have to tweak an option to turn on font smoothing. I’m on a mac and so didn’t see it myself. In browser lab, FF looked even worse that most IE and rivaled IE6 for crappiness.
PS: GREAT redesign. In particular, the story rundowns and tools are fantastic. Puts off-the-shelf CMS to shame.

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