When it comes to British news websites, ITV has previously been overshadowed to the point of obsolescence by the BBC. But that might all be about to change thanks to the new digital native, 24-hour rolling news portal unveiled this week. Created with Made by Many, the site isn’t just a good looking thing, with an instinctive, easy-to-navigate design, it’s also been built on a carefully-considered set of journalistic principles. Discarding the print/broadcast editorial models which are increasingly defunct online, the changes should drag ITV into the 21st century.
Launched yesterday in beta format before it is put through its first real paces at tomorrow’s budget, ITV says the site has been optimised for use on mobiles and tablets, prioritising video and digital efficiency.
It may seem tardy, but the site marks ITV putting digital strategy at the very heart of its news operation, reflecting the new set of media realities.
The ten-month project has been a major undertaking for Made by Many and the company’s William Owen has written a fantastic blog post detailing the process, the progress and the pressures at play during such a major overhaul.
He writes: “We set out to create a digitally native news service, something made for the web and mobile that left behind the Guttenberg-era baggage of ‘pages’, ‘articles’ and ‘editions’ that most news websites haven’t been able to shake off, as well as reworking some proto-web typologies like ‘navigation’, ‘liveblogging’ and ‘galleries’.”
Seeing how the Arab Spring became a 360 degree media event with social media playing an increasingly pivotal part, they decided to lead on “a stream of real time content that includes lots of short-form video playing directly in the stream – so that whenever I come back I know there’ll be something new."
“But,” he goes on, "the stream would have some particular characteristics: we’d push lots of big photographs through and tell stories with words and pictures, learning a lesson from Picture Post and Life; we’d have editors curate the stream using multiple sources and content types, aggregating the best of the web and not just ITV/ITN-generated material; and we would also filter the stream to make it possible to follow individual stories. This last was the big idea and – certainly in this context – an original one.”
The designers were determined to make the new site as simple as possible, and William gives an interesting insight into the client-creative relationship.
“At almost every step of the way ITV encouraged us to be bold. After all, there was no legacy online service of significance and we were released from many commercial constraints. In fact when we had the inevitable moments of self-doubt they pushed us forwards.
“Towards the end of the concept phase we presented a homepage that led on conventional articles and Robin Pembrooke, managing director of online and on demand, who was always a steadfast supporter of the stream-first approach, upbraided us for losing our nerve.”
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