From Map to Machine: Conceptualizing and Designing News on the Internet

By Lowrey, Wilson | Newspaper Research Journal, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

From Map to Machine: Conceptualizing and Designing News on the Internet


Lowrey, Wilson, Newspaper Research Journal


An already crowded news media market is making room for the Internet. Roughly 57 million Americans now use the Internet, and usage among adults increased 260 percent from 1992 to 1998.(1) Today, between 15 percent and 25 percent of Americans receive news online at least weekly, compared to 4 percent in 1995.(2) It is increasingly rare to find a daily newspaper without an online edition.(3)

One way newspaper executives have sought to increase product appeal over the past 20 years is to improve information design. Now that news media outlets of all kinds - print, TV and radio - have spawned Web sites, what role does information design play in the new online competition? Do the principles of print news design translate to online newspapers?

Many web papers parrot modernist newspaper design, which has become nearly universal in the print industry over the past 20-to-30 years. The modernist layout is a road map in which the route markers are headline size, dominant imagery, story placement and story length. It is the designer's job to make sure readers do not stray from the correct editorial route. Large photos and graphic displays tell a reader to start here. Short teases with snappy icons lead the reader inside to other sections of the paper, and variations in headline size prioritize story importance. Designers package and label related stories, photos and graphics to ensure that readers make the proper connections between issues, as predetermined by editors.(4) Scholars employing a cultural frame have shown how newspaper layouts reflect the authority of the editors as well as the professionalism and credibility of the organization.(5)

While newspaper design can be viewed as a means for editorial control, scholars and professionals agree that the Web's interactive nature swings control toward the reader (or user). If most of today's newspaper design is modernist, perhaps the Internet lends itself toless centrally controlled post-modern design.(6) Eric Fredin speaks of designers and editors providing diverse editorial viewpoints from which users can create their own news "hyperstories."(7) Designer Roger Black encourages editors and designers to think of the user's experience as a "journey" to understanding of the news.(8) The question becomes, how much control are editors and designers willing to relinquish in order to reap the full benefit of the Web's unique interactive characteristics? If control is relinquished, will the design-as-map metaphor lose its meaning? Will modernist design principles such as dominant imagery, headline hierarchy and story packaging no longer be helpful?

This study uses academic and professional wisdom to explore ways of conceptualizing Internet news and to unearth implications for Internet news site creative directors. In their responses, the creative directors shed a "real-world light" on the literature and raise new issues and concepts.

The current wisdom

The academic literature on the visual design of Web sites is sparse, but growing.(9) A few researchers have studied user likes and dislikes and how sites are used, but more usability studies have been conducted from within the industry.(10) There is also a growing "how-to" literature from professional designers.

Both professionals and academics agree there are no hard-and-fast rules. Whereas newspaper readers generally know what to expect when they open a newspaper, and editors are aware of these expectations (thus the "route markers" of headline size, section headers, story placement, etc.(11)), there are few if any rigid conventions for reading or designing Internet news. It is no wonder that many news Web site designers look at their computer screens and see newspapers.(12) Designers must have some model of good design toward which to work, if only to accomplish work on a daily basis. Eric Fredin, in a cognitive approach to Internet news design, says journalists and users should develop unique schemas for reading Internet news. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Map to Machine: Conceptualizing and Designing News on the Internet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.