As The Daily Mail website scoops a design effectiveness award, editor Rob Alderson looks at its strengths and asks whether its controversial style means it doesn’t get the design credit it deserves. As always, you can join the debate below…
Hello. My name’s Rob, and I’m a Mail Online-aholic. When it started it was just a cheeky glimpse now and then. But it’s started to take over my life – two or three times a day I feel the need just to check in, terrified I might miss some manufactured moral outrage about Rhianna’s latest outfit or a Twitter-bait column headlined something ridiculous like “Who SAYS I can’t marry my horse?”
I’m exaggerating of course, but only just. For millions of people around the world – 91.6 million a month apparently – The Daily Mail’s website is a part of their online routine, albeit for many a guilty secret. It was interesting then to see the reaction last week when the site scooped the top prize at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards, which “recognise the return on investment that a coherent, well-thought-out and professionally executed design strategy can achieve.”
The facts seem pretty straight forward. It’s the most visited news website in the world and Brand 42’s redesign is credited with playing a big part in the site’s jump in advertising revenue, from £4.5 million in 2008 to £25 million in 2012 (an increase of 455%). Now nobody is going to argue that Mail Online represents the cutting edge of web design brilliance either in terms of functionality or aesthetics. But in terms of doing what it needs to do?
The right hand column – known as the tramlines of traction/sidebar of shame – separates off The Mail’s celebrity content into a handy ghetto which makes the divide between its online and print products manifest. This allows those who find the aggressive conservatism of the paper unpleasant to focus only on the tittle-tattle. Then look at the use of photos across the homepage, crops and close-ups on a tiny scale that help draw in the readers alongside the captions and write-offs in which no word is wasted.
The huge long homepage might not be for everyone either and there’s certainly none of the clean white space so prevalent in the trendy web design sector. But remember this award is all about “design effectiveness” – not design for its own sake. For the left-leaning creative community, it may be difficult to appreciate effective design in this kind of context, but there may be lessons we can all learn.