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.