Designing for the future of digital journalism

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The end of the printing press

The maelstrom of day-to-day life made El Confidencial, a media outlet with a hectic pace of daily production, evolve its platform outside of the established roadmap. This meant that their product developed in a controlled way.

In addition, certain technical limitations around content management made it difficult for El Confidencial to iterate and adapt to the new needs of an ecosystem as changeable and competitive as the media.

Listen, understand, design

The challenge lay in working together with El Confidencial’s product department for a month and a half in order to align the needs, desires and expectations of each department; to get a broad idea of its current context: its functions, components, usage, cases, etc; and set out a future-proof design system.

A peek at the past to drive us into the future

Our main focus: to simplify the visual complexity. Our goal was to make the content more accessible and easier for the user to read through, and we pursued this in a multi-faceted way throughout the project. A meticulous exercise in the definition of typographic hierarchy and a flexible grid system were the tools we used to successfully respond to this task.

The world of visual resources we used needed to exude sobriety and simplicity, while each element also had to be intentional and have a particular function. We adopted a lot of visual references from print media in order to recover that rich universe of headlines, stippling effect images and frames that help organise and structure the information.

Information is contextual

Starting with the most basic, fundamental element, the news, we began to design a system of versatile layouts, which allowed us to make each level of navigation more organic. We created a place where information resources flow and compliment one another. 

Showing that there is more out there than just related news listings, we explored the possibilities of complementary content. We placed particular emphasis on generating spaces for temporary sections: live videos, protagonists’ profiles, featured comments and content extensions. These are only a few examples of ways to enhance news content.

The philosophy behind the digital product

This modular structure also permeates throughout the rest of the platform, in such a way that it changes the paradigm. Instead of understanding each page and level of depth as a static template, information is articulated in a more fluid way that allows us to quickly adapt to new needs and cases in an iterative way.

Hand in hand with this entire organisational approach, we also had the opportunity to work on the subscription model, which was, at the time, still under development. 

Of course, advertising spaces play a fundamental role within the structural framework of this system of design. To respond to their needs, we proposed a way to incorporate them strategically. We explored the balance between advertising and user experience by including fewer, but more impactful, advertising blocks.

A progressive implementation

This project marks the beginning of a new way of facing the day-to-day bustle in the editorial department of El Confidencial. New processes, new methods and new challenges. With the objective of making the transition as gradual as possible, both for the users and for the internal team, it was decided that the integration process would be progressive, and it is still under way. It began with the inside pages and will finish with the front page. 

El Confidential enjoyed a historic 2020, in which they became the third most read news outlet in Spain, ahead of El País and ABC.