The Rethink Project

September 2014

The Washington Post has opened a design and development studio in New York City. We are working hard to build out our capabilities and are focused on rethinking our digital platform. I currently run the design and strategy team in NYC.

Here is the full presentation

In September of 2014, I gave a talk at the annual workshop for The Society of News Design in Frankfurt, Germany (Ich Liebe Deutschland!). I presented the core tenets guiding The Washington Post’s digital strategy and the efforts known as ‘The Rethink Project’ happening in the NYC office.

The Rethink essentially means we’re creating a user-centric platform for all users of the Washington Post, both internally in the newsroom (for our reporters, editors, designers and producers) and externally with our audience and our advertisers. It is a full-stack project, dealing both with front end and back end design and development challenges.

We’re purposefully not using the word “redesign” because that word tends to come with a lot of baggage and is often perceived as only a visual change by some. We are definitely more interested in fundamental changes in what our web platform is, and should become. Visuals are extremely important, but that is not our focus at this point.

When we started this process, we outlined the ideas and goals we had for the new site, but we realized we didn’t have the tools or mechanisms in place to give us the capabilities that we wanted for our new ideas and our audience. We make too many decisions about what a user sees based on the limitations of our internal tools. And we need to stop doing that.

Here are few slides from the presentation about what is prompting (and accelerating) the changes we hope to make:

One of the big catalysts for moving forward with this project is how user habits change and will continue to change. The traffic to our site from mobile devices continues to increase and, along with industry trends, we are seeing a lot more of our audience arriving directly to stories.

The competitive landscape keeps evolving. We continue to compete with traditional news organizations (especially with our journalism), but as a destination on the Internet, we are also competing for people’s time against messaging apps, Instagram, and sites like Facebook and Buzzfeed. Because of this, we need to make drastic improvements and rethink the structure of how we tell stories to stay on top of the way people expect to find and consume information.

There is a desire to improve the overall usability of our web platform and to create elaborate stories, collections and packages and to experiment with new forms. We hope to build a system that will enable more visual journalism in our process across the organization and create an environment where complex visual storytelling can thrive. It’s not sustainable to keep doing all these special projects by hand because it really limits our capabilities.

Anyway, take a look at the full presentation – I would love to know your feedback! Feel free to reach out.

I really believe it’s an exciting time to be in journalism and I’m so impressed with the digital evolution I see across the whole landscape and the momentum in the industry. I’m excited to see how our project will contribute to moving the needle and I’m anxious to get our new ideas into the wild.