The long-form digital design process at CNN, New York Times and Washington Post

This morning, Andrew Kueneman, deputy director of digital design at The New York Times, Greg Manifold, design director at The Washington Post, Sarah Sampsel, director of digital strategy at The Washington Post, and Judith Siegel, senior UX designer at CNN.com presented “Go Long: How to master long-form digital design,” a session about the process behind making a couple-thousand word story have a beautiful digital presence.

Here are five areas of the process they discussed:

1. Navigation

It’s important to let readers know where they are and where they can go within a story, Siegel said. With CNN’s piece, Slavery’s Last Stronghold, there are about 8,000 words and 30 minutes of video. Pin navigation helped the user move around the story easily.

2. Templates

After a couple tries at the long-form digital design, organizations can develop a template and concrete look and feel to each special project. “We try to pick up little components in each so we’re not re-inventing design aspects of each site,” Kueneman said about some of The New York Times’s projects. Although it can be challenging to start fresh each time, there can be certain design elements that are similar in each project.

3. Saying no to writers

Not every story deserves this kind of special treatment, even though every reporter may want theirs to be given special treatment. “We have the power to say that is not the best avenue for that,” Manifold said. Kueneman emphasized what stories need to have in order to become a long-form digital project. “[They] need to have enough potential in the visual side to be placed in one of these templates,” Kueneman said.

4. Advertising

Sampsel suggested working with advertisers to create a “premium experience” for the user. For one of the Washington Post’s projects, an advertiser wanted to have a parallax ad, which matched the rest of the website. Kueneman said, “We will never let anything influence how the story is presented, and edited.”

5. The team

Sampsel said teams included many people, around five to 10. At first. After more experience with creating these types of websites, the team can boil down to two, Manifold added. This team usually consists of a designer, reporter and sometimes a graphics person. The less people a team has, the more efficient they can be with time and workflow.

Kueneman discussed The New York Times’s pieces such as Snowfall, The Jockey and the Tomato Can Blues. Manifold and Sampsel discussed pieces such as Cycling’s Road Forward and The Perils at Great Falls. Siegel discussed pieces like Taken and a new project coming out Nov. 17 about 24 hours in the world’s busiest airport.