Yesterday, Huffington Post CEO Jared Grusd announced at Advertising Week that the Post, the 10-year-old news aggregator and publishing empire founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005, was working with Code and Theory on a massive network redesign. But while site redesigns generally revolve around page layouts, new logos, font choices, and color schemes, the Huffington Post is taking a broader view. More than just a redesign, it's a reconception of a blogging behemoth that racks up over 240 million page views every month.
The goal of the Huffington Post redesign, says Code and Theory managing partner Mike Treff, isn't about a single new feature, element, or page: It's about building a holistic system that is agile and flexible enough to adapt to the next 10 years of web evolution.
As a platform, the new Huffington Post will aim to be more than a Lego set of different modules that the site's writers and editors can endlessly recombine to tell new stories. It aims to be a Lego system that's future-compatible, as opposed to future-proof. The idea is to allow pieces that no one has even imagined yet to effortlessly slot in.
"We're trying to build an annuity into the platform so it doesn't need to be redesigned every few years," Treff says. "Everything in media is changing, so the challenge is, how can we leapfrog the advances in content and storytelling before they actually happen?"
But that doesn't mean there won't be quantifiable differences in the new Huffington Post design, which Treff calls "tactical improvements." In thinking about the redesign, Treff says Code and Theory started by recognizing that there are two broadly different groups of HuffPo readers. Some are topical. They might come in once a day to read, say, the site's entertainment coverage, then leave when they're done. The others are temporal. These are readers who come infrequently, either because they saw a breaking story on social media or they remembered to check what was going on. For both types, the Huffington Post wants readers to stick around and read another story (or 12). But how you go about enticing these two groups of readers to do so is very different.
So a big part of the Huffington Post relaunch is going to be focused on using machine learning to give smart recommendations, based upon what the system knows about them. Treff says Code and Theory is also happy with the way it has worked to vastly simplify the Huffington Post's navigation structure, giving users "true wayfinding, instead of just a visual taxonomy." For a topical, entertainment-focused reader, the Huffington Post might serve up more entertainment recommendations, while a temporal reader might be given more breaking news, contextual articles based upon what they just read, or articles suggested based on what they read on the web last.
The new design will also feature the ability for editors to easily package up coverage in bundles relevant to breaking news stories, and redistribute them elsewhere on the site, while social media sharing will also be more deeply integrated with the content and branding of the site.
I asked Treff if there were any parts of the site's current design that were totally off limits to them. "No, nothing was off limits, but after thinking about it, we decided there were things we didn't want to touch, just because they were part of the brand's DNA."
That means you can expect the same Garamond green logo, and the same signature Splash jumbo headline at the top of each page—or at least versions of them. The challenge, Treff says, was to take this brand DNA and amplify it in the new design.
For now, the new Huffington Post is still a work in progress. Treff says due to all the behind-the-scenes work going into it, it won't be available to the public until sometime in 2016, when it will launch simultaneously on web, smartphones, and tablets.