How to characterize “web year 2012?” It is “visual” – the web is getting more visual and news sites such as Sky News is among the first to adapt to the visual trend with a new site design which gives a much greater focus on visual contents.
How the web is getting visual
The web’s explosive demand for visuals in 2012 can be seen in the popularity of image-sharing sites, data visualization, and infographics.
Image and photo sharing has been a popular web activity, yet it has seen an explosive, phenomenal growth this year aided by social media and smartphones. A few popular social media startups this year: Pinterest, an image-sharing social media startup, shot to viral popularity; Instagram, another popular photo-sharing startup, was acquired by Facebook for US$1 billion; also popular are Tumblr and Flipboard.
Data visualizations put raw data into visually interesting and engaging presentations that can be stand-alone stories or part of a multimedia storytelling package. Guardian provides a good example of how data is visualized in “data journalism.” Web services such as Visually provide easy-to-use tools for creating infographic – information graphics; for examples of good infographic work, check out a Pinterest collection.
Why Sky News wanted a new site design
In a journalism.co.uk article, the people behind Sky News’ new site said the design means articles include the “full range of media and context’ on the same page;” “We’ve got the top stories you expect to find but given it a much more visual flavour, so we can guide users to the most important video and images at the top of every story.”
How much more “visual” is Sky News’ new site?
One “visual” way to see how much more “visual” Sky News’ site has become is to compare it with peer sites for how “visually” different they treat the same story. One top story today (July 5) is a possible autopsy of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian leader who died in 2004, and recent findings suggested he might be poisoned.
For a comparison with Sky News, I selected the Arafat story on AOL, CNN, USA Today, and New York Times. Below is a slideshow of screenshots, you can see for yourself how “visual” each site treats the same story, beginning with the Sky News story page.
Lastly, here’s a comparison of the front page of Sky News now and then: I captured its homepage of today (July 5), and retrieved its homepage the same date a year ago (July 5, 2011). Let’s see how they “visually differ” from each other – can you tell them apart, that is, which one is 2011 version and which one is 2012 version?