3 Brands, 1 System: The NBC News Digital Redesign
Code and Theory partnered with NBC News, one of the oldest and most established publishers with over 80 years in the business, to revamp its digital ecosystem. We, as one combined team, worked across a wide range of areas to rethink existing paradigms including: editorial workflows, design and development processes, design systems, advertising integration and technical approach.
Our efforts started small and focused on the design and launch of 4 new flagship verticals: Mach, Better, Leftfield and Think. We then expanded our work to encompass NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com and Today.com. After the success of implementing a fresh design language and strategy, we turned our efforts to NBC’s Snapchat Show, “Stay Tuned,” the first daily news program of its kind.
Partnering with Code and Theory allowed us to super-charge our internal teams and work with some of the most experienced designers in publishing. The excellence and velocity that Code and Theory brought to this project raised the bar on everything from ideation and strategy to design and development.
As the ever-shifting media landscape continued to become more digitally focused, we were forced to reevaluate why, when and how people consume news. We needed to find a way to retain users’ attention among all the bite-sized content consumption options available.
After working alongside stakeholders and digging into business requirements, the path forward consisted of defining a system that was as visually different and engaging as it was consistent for all NBC News properties. To do this, we had to elevate and leverage its extensive library of video content and evolve our understanding of how advertising could become an integral part of its storytelling.
With the goal of eventually expanding the project to account for all NBC News digital properties, we had to ensure our system would be scalable and flexible enough to adapt over time to the more intensive and custom needs across NBC’s larger ecosystem.
The building blocks of this system are a robust central library of all the shared page elements and modules across the properties. In creating each of these blocks, we had to consider the implications of every design decision, including the various destinations and breakpoints across the spectrum, from mobile to desktop. In addition to being scalable at the onset, this system also had to allow for a seamless delivery of updates, optimizations and new technology for years to come.
We built a highly flexible set of storytelling tools that allowed NBC to focus on creating a strong editorial voice and bolstering confidence in its ability to deliver engaging and immersive original content to users, regardless of medium.
In close collaboration with the NBC teams, we stripped down their existing editorial toolkit to its most basic parts and built it back up within the system we defined. Through that process we laid the foundation for a modular system with a library of necessary page components that adhered to core storytelling and packaging needs. This approach opened us up to refocusing on storytelling craft, doing more with less and allowing editors to easily manage curated and dynamic content packages with variable visual hierarchies and content densities—granting even the most promptly-produced content a distinct voice and feel.
In an era where video consumption was increasingly shifting from broadcast to digital, we helped discover ways to further bridge the two worlds. For the Snapchat News Show, "Stay Tuned," we had to think beyond merely redesigning a television news show on users' phones. To account for the ephemeral nature of Snapchat, we created dynamic left-to-right glitch transitions between clips, maximizing the time that interesting content appears onscreen.
We solved for variable monetization integrations that served to enhance our design system instead of overpowering it, as well as amplifying the impact of our stories by prioritizing user loyalty over volume. We built everything toward a responsive future, complying with IAB standards while remaining compatible with legacy guidelines. An example of this can be found across our ad implementations, such as the Ping Pong units on the front pages, switching dynamically from the left to the right rail on scroll in an effort to combat ad blindness.
In the end, the onus of our broad strategic framework rested on re-kindling audience connection with NBC as a bastion of news in the 21st century, providing a future proof, easy to use system that can allow the stories told daily to take the spotlight.
As the hard-and-fast rules of content consumption continues to change, we have successfully defined, designed and developed a digital toolkit that is adaptable to the evolving and unforeseeable future of the digital landscape and platforms.
The re-launch of NBC News, Today.com, MSNBC.com and Snapchat’s "Stay Tuned" will continue to be an ongoing and iterative process. Keep an eye out for their continued rollouts!