I judge books by their covers. Similarly, I judge websites by their homepages. If you don’t impress me, I will likely leave your site within minutes.
Research has shown I’m not alone in this. While we all judge homepages by our own set of standards, the fact remains, we judge. This is not good news for someone (me) trying to design a homepage. In fact, it’s downright terrifying.
The obvious first option was to copy the standard norms for online news sites. Think: USAToday.com, NYTimes.com and CNN.com. There is nothing wrong with these models, to be sure, but as we are building a somewhat experimental site, we wanted to be, well, experimental. And the truth of the matter is we will likely not have enough content each day to fill an entire news site, nor the development time to build it.
What we want from this site is a place to best showcase what we have created: the comment structures we have built and the Facebook Connect integration we have developed. One of our professors, Jeremy Gilbert, put it best. This site should be like the best art galleries – display the work without getting in the way.
We decided to pursue a news feed model. What we think is the quickest and easiest way to get readers into the stories and experimenting with our designs. Think: New York Times River (with a little more design), meets Digg (without ratings).
You see, we are designing a site for the Facebook generation. These people use Digg, Reddit and Twitter. They use sites like this. They get it. They don’t necessarily need the pretty, the big photos, the fancy layout (especially for our testing purposes) they need the stories.
So while this site might not agree with the tastes of everyone, hopefully it will help us reach our target audience, 20 to 35 year olds living in Cedar Rapids, so they will be able to test out what we have built for them.
After all, if you build it, they will come, right?