The more options you have, the more you think.
The more you’re thinking, the more you aren’t doing.
It is one of life’s great illusions; that it is a sign of freedom to have so much choice. But when the choices are inconsequential — what kind of cereal you’re going to buy, for instance — it is the exact opposite of freedom. You are a slave to the decision-making process. It’s true while you’re in the grocery store. It’s true when you turn on the TV and are so overwhelmed with choice that you watch nothing. Sometimes, it is a relief to take the only thing you are offered and move along, especially when you have other things to do with your time. This is why I’m extremely fascinated by Mule Design’s Evening Edition project.
One page. A snack-sized look at the day’s top news stories, published at 5PM PST. ReadWriteWeb’s Jon Mitchell commented, “A Web design studio built the first news site I’ve ever read from top to bottom two days in a row, and it did so as a side project.” It’s true. Mule Design is a Web design company at heart; in fact, you might be familiar with one of its designs (which doesn’t do much to espouse simplicity but is an enormous improvement over the previous design).
What Mule’s Evening Edition project does differently is that it targets ordinary content consumers, and it could care less about the numbers. It gives those who just want to quickly catch up on the news a way to do so without dozens of menu options, and without having to click through multiple pages to get the gist of the story. It is extremely functional because, from the start, it tosses out the benchmarks used by every other media site for success: page impressions, clicks, social shares, etc. Those benchmarks can become a site’s obsession, and lead it to make a lot of really bad choices (how user friendly are those multi-page slideshows?). You might push those pageview numbers up a percent, but you’re also taking an enormous crap on your readers.
The Evening Edition format looks more the format that belongs on the front page of a news site or a blog. Let those who simply want to find out what happened in the world do so, and do so quickly. Provide an avenue for those who want to dig deeper. Basically, provide the same service a low-tech, traditional newspaper provides. Offer a good experience, and you’re more likely to get a daily visit. It’s strange that a few steps back can be seen as innovative, but in 2012, where ridiculous linkbait headlines and cheap pageview pumping are the norm, it is just that.