Homepage Design Affects Page Views, Learning from News Articles

There is a significant increase in page views when people browse a news website with a contemporary design compared to a website with a classic design, according to a new report from the Center for Media Engagement. People also learn more from the articles when they view a contemporary site.

Across a series of three experiments, the Center for Media Engagement analyzed what happens when people are given the same news content presented in different ways. Some of the 2,671 study participants browsed a site with a classic newsprint layout, while others looked at a page with a contemporary modular and image-based layout. The same 20 articles with identical text appeared on both sites.

Click here to view the full report.

The Center for Media Engagement team consistently found that the contemporary site garnered more page views than the classic site. In all three of the experiments, the contemporary site had at least a 90 percent increase in unique page views compared to the classic site. Nearly every article had more page views when it appeared on the contemporary website.

contemporary site
Contemporary website.

The Center for Media Engagement team also found that study participants’ retention of details from the articles, though low across the board, nonetheless increased by at least 50 percent when participants viewed the contemporary homepage compared to the classic one.

“Our research shows just how important the design of a homepage can be to the commercial and democratic success of a news website,” said Dr. Talia Stroud, director of the Center for Media Engagement. “We hope that these findings will lead news organizations to reevaluate their homepages.”

Other research findings include:

  • Study participants rated the contemporary site more positively than the classic site.
  • Where the articles appeared on the page affected article recall more consistently than whether people clicked on the article.
  • The differences between the classic and contemporary homepages were due to the site layout and images, not due to a technical feature allowing people to view an article superimposed above a faded version of the homepage.

“It’s easy to gloss past the homepage when thinking about audience engagement, but our findings show that homepage presentation matters,” said Alex Curry, research associate for the Center for Media Engagement. “When it comes to page views and how much the audience is learning, design matters.”