Head of Visuals, NZZ

Why does no news site think big?

April 30, 2013 (updated on March 6, 2014)

Apparently, 2013 is the Year of Responsive Design. By the end of the year, everyone and your mother will have a responsive site.

But here’s a thing about responsive design: Everyone seems to assume that responsive is all about making your site work well on small screens. Sure enough, that’s important. Yet there’s no particular reason for your site to stop being responsive once it has grown to 1024 or so pixels wide. Look around your office and you’re very likely to see a lot of screens that are a lot wider.

It struck me when I looked at Quartz’ most recent redesign (which, make no mistake, is yet another great iteration of an already great site). On my 27″ iMac, the site looks like this.

Quartz

So I set out to check other major news sites across the globe. Not all of them are responsive in the first place, I know, but you’ll get the picture. Here’s what I found (spoiler: a lot of whitespace).

The New York Times

New York Times
after their 2014 redesign:
New York Times (redesigned)

The Washington Post

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.53.11

TIME

TIME

CNN

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.54.16

The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe

The Financial Times

FT

The Wall Street Journal

WSJ

The Guardian

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.52.08
after their redesign (currently in alpha):
The Guardian (redesigned)

BBC

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.53.44

The Daily Mail

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.53.26

The Huffington Post

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.52.55

ZEIT Online

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.54.44

Spiegel Online

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.54.53

BILD.de

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.55.17

Süddeutsche.de

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.55.34

tagesschau.de (which became responsive just yesterday)

Tagesschau.de

Buzzfeed

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.52.39

The Verge

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.59.20

Mashable

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.59.44

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.57.35

20Minuten

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.57.16

Tages-Anzeiger

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.57.25

Blick.ch

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.57.47

SRF

SRF

Last, but not least: The site I’m responsible for: TagesWoche

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.57.07

Now, let’s look a little further.

Yahoo

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 18.00.24

Twitter

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.56.35

Google News (oh!)

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 18.00.48

Finally, two examples of sites that are responsive all the way up.

Kippt

Bildschirmfoto 2013-04-29 um 17.59.07

And of course: Pinterest

Pinterest

Looking at this wide array of not so wide websites leaves me wondering: Is the ideal size of a news website really around 1024-1200 pixels even when the screen is a lot bigger (or do we like it that way because, at this width, it resembles a newspaper)?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this and I for one would love to see examples of actual news sites (I count Google News as an exception here) that try to make use of the full width. Good news that the people at Quartz already have something up their sleeves. This is their Product Engineering Director after I have pointed out the vast unused space on their site:

Update: As pointed out by Christoph Widauer, USA Today has a big screen mode that can be activated on click.

USA Today

USA Today Big Screen

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