Starting Over: Alex Breuer and the Saga of The Guardian’s Redesign

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After two years of research and taking changes, The Guardian presented readers with a new look to unite its digital content: one that updated based on the news traffic and time of day.

By the time Alex Breuer came onboard, no official process existed for the planned redesign. His team included journalists and editors, developers, a product and commercial team, and designers.

“When I started, we were geographically completely separated,” Breuer said.

Having team members split up between several floors may not seem that significant, but it led to a “waterfall” approach instead of actual collaboration.

Breuer, the creative director for The Guardian, presented on Saturday morning to a large audience about the trials and tribulations of collaborating on The Guardian’s redesign.

New and improved: on Saturday morning, The Guardian homepage will be featuring more visual content than on a regular weekday morning.
New and improved: on Saturday morning, The Guardian homepage will be featuring more visual content than on a regular weekday morning.

As part of a team with very diverse backgrounds and skills, each member had their own way of doing things.

“We wanted to build a really coherent and manageable system,” Breuer spoke for the designers. “But to the [development] and editorial team, all we did was pick the colors.”

By breaking down their goals, they looked at the basics of what worked and didn’t with their digital content. At that point, their mobile app was run by a third party. They began looking at what was currently being done and what worked well in wider formats as well as on handheld devices.

Imagine your entire print news section covered by this. The Guardian wanted to replicate this print packaging technique on their digital platforms. But how?

“There was some pressure from the product team to actually start something and stop navel-gazing,” said Breuer.

After eight months, an intervention occurred and the team was reshaped. The new team created a model that they were finally happy with. Unfortunately, the readers hated it.

“The problem [readers] had was the amount of content that was actually onscreen,” he said. “They felt they were scrolling too much down the page.”

This presented The Guardian with a density problem. How much news and content did they need? Tracking eye movement and engaging with readers, they came up with the idea of offering a variety of presentation for their content.

They began looking into a fluid model that could update with the news.

guardian cross-platform campaign
Check your Guardian app. No, that’s not an ad. It’s an interactive story about the changes in our climate.

“It wasn’t good enough to have one solution that would be there for 24 hours a day,” Breuer said.

Now, they are working on applying these concepts to make their stories stand out by customizing its position on the site.

Emphasizing the topic of climate change, The Guardian covered the print edition with this design, calling out the individuals that need to divest from fossil fuels.

To get the same impact on the website, Breuer’s team worked to replicate the boldness of the print display by taking up the homepage of the desktop and the app.

“Is it finished what we’ve done? No, not really. It’s only started,” Breuer said.