Gannett Creative Director Andres Quesada on USA Today’s user experiences

Andres Quesada previewed USAToday.com's new vertically-stacked article view at SND. The new view lends itself to a more natural user experience.

Andres Quesada previewed USAToday.com’s new vertically-stacked article view at SND. The new view lends itself to a more natural user experience.

This morning, Andres Quesada, creative director for Gannett Digital, presented “Designing Simply” about the philosophies behind designing user experiences that achieve many goals by designing less. Quesada used examples from USA Today desktop and mobile to illustrate a user-focused approach to design.

The elusive objective

Quesada and the team of 18 designers and information architects at Gannett recognize that users visit their platforms with an objective. “The user has a path on the site. They come looking for something specific,” Quesada said. In the process, they often bail because of ads or an overload of headlines. This understanding led them to bring advertising in as a part of the experience, rather than just tack it on. They also eliminated the clutter of their navigation.

Learning from the interface

The Gannett teams keeps a close eye on metrics to understand how users interact and search for their objective. When they found that the lateral navigation strategy on their desktop site was being ignored, they began looking to abandon that style and replace it with an experience that stacks articles on top of one another vertically.

Right philosophies for the device

With their initial iPad redesign, too many features — particularly the navigation — were inherited from the web. “We gutted it,” Quesada said. The redesigned the interface using entirely iPad specific design philosophies.

Collaborate with platform developers

When USA Today began developing an app for Microsoft’s Surface, they sent a designer and developer to live at the Microsoft campus for weeks. The result was an experience that users were expecting because it mimicked the ideas of the operating system.

Rethink the user & business relationship

If users find their objective on a platform and are not intruded by advertising in the process, they are more likely to return. These two ideas are key to Gannett’s strategy with USA Today. Ads become a part of the experience. Fewer content options cut through the clutter. The objective becomes clear.