Seth Godin gives examples of how winning web sites often are not those that win design awards, unless you define ”bad design” as ”does not work”.
I am not sure this is a real trend, but here is another example: vg.no. This Norwegian newspaper has a website that breaks all possible criteria for good design: It is seemingly disorganized (there is not thematic order to the articles), has colorful images and distracting images all over, is very long, and is manually put together. And it is wildly successful: VG is Norway’s largest newspaper*, and vg.no has more readers than the paper paper.
Vg.no is also different in that only 5% of the material at the web site comes from the paper version. The managing editor of vg.no, Torry Pedersen, has so far resisted any integration with the paper version tooth and nail – something the very successful media house Schibsted gives him, not least because his profitability levels have consistently been over 40% and he has taken more than a quarter of all news and entertainment traffic in Norway.
I used to think that search would take over newspapers, but Torry begs to differ: Only 10% of his readers come through search engines – the rest arrive in the front doors, looking at the lively, entertaining and rather chaotic front page as a gateway to something interesting, something newsworthy, a break in a hectic or slow day.
In other words, there are more than one way to skin a cat, or, in this case, to bring newspapers to the web. Torry’s way should be something to ponder for traditional papers such as the New York Times, with their rather austere and self-important designs. The Atlantic has an interesting front page, but the content does not change often enough to make it a frequent stopping place. As for the rest – look out for Google News…
*On a personal note: I never read it myself, since it is decidedly tabloid in nature. The Internet version, though, is subtly different.