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Panpa Bulletin : April 2006
32 | PaNPa bUlletiN april 2006 ProDUctioN Your readers want your newspaper to be well designed. They expect that --- just like they expect you to be thor- ough, accurate and balanced in your report- ing. They also want a design that's more than just 'pretty' --- they want a design that works. For them. Every issue. The best way for you to make that happen is to remember your reader with every design you do. The most important question you can ask yourself with any design is: "Does it work for my readers?" Here are some simple steps you can take to make your design work 1. Put things in their place. Lock key content in the same position from issue to issue. If you place your Opinion page on page 4, keep it there. If your obituar- ies are on page 6, keep them there. Only rarely should you shift content --- even if it's just national and wire news --- and only then for good reason. One of my former clients thought it was OK to 'float' the comics page from section to section each day. But his readership information showed there was greater readership (nearly 80 percent daily) for the comics page than the opinion page (nearly 20 percent daily). We fixed that during the redesign --- and kept the opinion page in position as well. 2. Avoid jumps. For decades, readers have been telling us they dislike jumps. Empirical studies dem- onstrate time and again that readers do not follow jumps. Yet we continue to design front pages with four or five stories that jump. I don't get it. Neither do readers. Let's renew our efforts to write shorter and to segment stories so readers know we're working for them. 3. Don’t “break” obits. An obituary is "Bible material." Loved ones of the deceased would like to be able to cut out the obituary in one piece, rather than having to tape or staple pieces together. Let's do our best to give them that small consider- ation in a time of sadness. Keep the obituary in one column --- or in two or three columns with even legs and a centered headline. 4. Give text type ample size. One of the most frequent complaints from readers is that text is too small to read com- fortably. In some cases, that's because we're running our text too small. In other cases, it's because the type we're using just won't do the job. Test your text: run a prototype with some options and then put those in front of a group of readers --- they'll let you know what they like. 5. Create layers where needed. Sometimes a lead headline just doesn't do the job. It may get reader attention but it just can't tell the story completely. That's where we can make sound use of subheads and summary paragraphs. If you don't have these in your arsenal --- and your style guide --- now's a good time to work on some op- tions for these elements. 6. Use infoboxes. Readers often like to get their information in the form of raw data. And nothing does that for them as well as an infobox. And an infobox often serves another person: it's a "hook" that will often get readers into a story. 7. Use maps. Got a road detour in your area? Show readers the map. Directions aren't much help because readers struggle to visualise where they'll be driving. A map is much simpler, much more clear. 8. Make your briefs brief. Few things are more frustrating for readers than being presented with a'briefs' package in which the'briefs' are six inches, eight inches --- or longer.These are not briefs.They are stories and they should be placed elsewhere under separate headlines. Readers see through an attempt on our part to make them believe a longer story is a brief. Let's keep briefs to about two to four inches 9. Make your paper interactive. Use 'refers' to send your readers to your web page --- and 'refers' on the web to get them to the print edition. If you're doing a survey on your web site, offer the answer in print --- or ask the question in print to send them to the web. And give your readers a list of e-mail addresses in your print edition. You can do this by creating a reporter contact line with e-mail address and phone number to run at the bottom of bylined stories. Create design elements that help your readers reach you 10. Be a booster. It's OK for you to splash the story on page 1 if your girl's volleyball team wins the regional tournament. Running a teaser on page 1 with the story played big on the Sports front is OK, too --- but what other newspaper is going to give that story the ride you can? Don't be afraid to let people know you feel good about your town, your kids --- and your readers. Remember who your boss is: your readers. Focus on reader needs and your design is bound to succeed. Ed Henninger is an independent newspa- per consultant and the director of Hennin- ger Consulting. Design for your readers. Newspaper design is all about your reader: making it easy for them to gain what they want. ed henninger gives 10 tips