In Part 1, we discussed how the growth of tablet usage is going to effect small business web design in 2013. In the next few parts, we will take a look at the innovative new design which launched a couple of months ago.

What does USAToday’s design have to do with small business web design, you ask? A couple of points on that and then we’ll jump into an analysis of the new design.

  1. Much of web design already owes its heritage and terminology to the newspaper industry.  In web design, we often talk about what is going to show up “above the fold”.  That means what content is going to show up without the user having to scroll down.  Newspapers used “above the fold” to describe the top half of the front page of the paper because newspapers sat in display stands folded in half.  You had better get good content “above the fold”.  Same thing holds true in web design.  First impressions are crucial.
  2. USAToday turned the news design industry on its head in the 80s and they continue to lead the way today.  Big bold color on the front page, daring use of white space in the page content, and have you ever heard of an infographic?  USAToday pioneered the infographic which has carried over particularly well on the web.

Yes, there are some differences in objectives with news sites and small business websites, but there are significant shifts coming in web design and USAToday is leading the way.

Shrunken Heads

Shrunken Heads

Small is the new big. Well, when it comes to the header, we see a trend towards reduction. Look at the headers for these three news orgs.  We’ll talk logos later in the series, but you can see very quickly that USAToday is trying to get everything else out of the way and get you to the content (what you came to the site for) quicker.  They had to make some reductions in menu choices up top to pull it off.  Check out the number of menu items on the three sites . . .

Fox News and CNN are forced into 2 levels of menus because of their large number of menu options.  They will have to make some tough choices or their headers are going to be big.

Most small businesses don’t face those tough choices because they have much less info to present.  So shrinking the header to get folks to the site content quicker should be an easy transition for the small business.  The tougher choice for small business folk lies in the area of logo reduction and branding.  We’ll talk more about logos and branding in a later part of the series.

Magazine-Style Navigation


As we mentioned in the last post, the growth of tablet usage is pushing web design in a new direction. USAToday is the first major news org site to feature left right arrow buttons on the side which let the user navigate through the site sections from single points. Tablets are often held horizontally. It’s like thumbing through a magazine or newspaper, section by section. The image and text layout has a magazine-style feel as well–vertical images offset by text on the right. Vertical images will be much easier to use and more prominently used when they feel like a part of the content.

Left-right navigation buttons make sense for small business. A visitor can quickly browse the Blog, About Us, Services, Products, and Testimonials for a quick overview of the business. And, what do you know, the Contact Us is usually the last menu item on the right, and most small biz’s don’t mind if someone contacts them. 🙂

Magazine-style layouts for some pages on small biz sites do make some sense as well. Most bios include a vertical head shot of the person, so that would look great next to a bullet point list of accomplishments. Some products look better in a vertical orientation as well, so look for better use of vertical images in page content in the future.

Next up is Part 3: Color. Stay tuned . . .

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