Over the decades, numerous studies on the marketing and advertisement sectors have shown that packaging can be as significant as the product itself. So much so, that the design of a package can be a key factor in influencing consumer preference in a particular product and its eventual success.
This has become more apparent with the popularity of social media where brands and their product designs directly influence whether these products are shared by actual and potential buyers over this new medium.
Brands forge and articulate their identities and product-briefs through packaging in cases where a buyer spends perhaps a split-second if they are doing a blind purchase. In today's competitive market, that split-second is worth coming up with a design that appeals to potential buyers and represents the brand with designs that are sleek, homely, elegant or vintage.
With these aspects of marketing in mind, can we say that similar principles also apply to what we do here? If we consider our newspapers and news websites as products and the readers as customers, it would ultimately mean that the design of our products are as important as their content, especially when it comes to attracting a bigger audience.
Just like worldwide brands, which have carefully forged an identity that translates over linguistic barriers and are instantly recognizable anywhere in the world, journalism comes with unique design elements and templates regardless of whether it's in the U.S., India or Japan. Sometimes this involves the choice of fonts or the layout of a page. News websites also influence one another when it comes to design choices.
Today we will mainly focus on the design of news websites in Turkey, while analyzing its importance in drawing and retaining readers.
A new study
When we look at the majority of news websites in Turkey, we see one common occurrence and that is the abundance of information. Numerous sliders greet you as headlines, and spots fill every nook and cranny, giving an impression of designs dating back to earlier times on the Internet when the idea was "more is more."
However, times have changed and currently "less is more," whether it's about building a brand image, designing a product package or in our case, a news website.
So what is the motivation behind this prevalent template of the majority of Turkey's news websites? It could be to relay as much information as possible on the front page. But given that a significant number of their homepage content and titles can easily be categorized as clickbait, that theory does not hold much water.
It could also be that news websites are trying to draw and retain more readers with their more than generous use of homepage links. After all, with dozens of sliders, headlines, spots and photos on the page, at least one would surely strike a chord with a particular reader and encourage him or her to stay on the site to read further, right? But, even if that might be the reason, studies suggest that it might be counterproductive. A recent study by Germany-based design consultancy EyeQuant found that a clean web design is the way to go.
EyeQuant uses latest visual neuroscience and machine learning technology to improve the web designs of their clients. In their study to determine design success, they mainly focused on something known as bounce rates.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the website after looking at a single page, rather than staying on and clicking to explore further. Considering the reason behind cluttered news websites and clickbait titles is just that, let us find out how effective they are.
Using data from hundreds of participants who were asked to pick the cleaner design between two given websites, the company devised an algorithm. Using the algorithm and machine learning, they then create a model that rates design clarity between 0 and 100, with 100 being the highest level of clarity.
The study then analyzed the bounce rates of 300 popular websites of different categories and compared them with their clarity scores. Eventually, the results were, if you pardon the pun, quite clear.
Bounce rates and clarity scores had a negative correlation. In other words, as the clarity score of a web page got higher, its bounce rate became lower.
According to EyeQuant: "Perhaps the most striking data point is the r-squared value of 0.327, which implies that roughly one-third of the variance in bounce rates can be explained by the variance in clarity scores - a much stronger effect than we expected to find."
Thus, it might be that while trying to cast a wide net, the abovementioned news websites might actually be undermining and turning away readers with clutter and poor design choices.
How about us?
Analyzing Turkey's news websites, it is prudent to take a look at Daily Sabah's website design as well. The current design of our website is chiefly done by Rahmi Osman Kaçmaz, who is the art director and an editor of dailysabah.com.
Sharing his thoughts on the website and what influenced his decisions during the design process, Kaçmaz said: "While designing the website, our focus was to deliver a distraction-free and visually clear experience where nothing would get in the way of a good reading experience."
"We put a strong emphasis on using as much white space as possible, especially in the article pages, to give the website a clean look, feel and above all, to ease reading."
"Legibility was also one of our main priorities. We experimented and tested our typography choices to reach a pleasant combination of color, font, font size, line height and the number of characters per line," he added.
It is apparent that Kaçmaz opted for design clarity that makes our website a minority in terms of design choices by Turkey's news websites. A similar approach can also be seen on the eDaily Sabah app for iOS, which was also designed mainly by Kaçmaz. The app allows readers to reach the printed version of Daily Sabah.
He said that the team is currently working on a new and responsive design, which would bring a fresher look to the website and improve the user experience.
On the whole, we can say, especially in light of the above-mentioned study, that it is time for the majority of news websites in Turkey to take another look at the packaging. After all, with the growing number of competitors and the ever-increasing popularity of social media, attracting and sustaining a strong reader base does not solely depend on the content.