Echo is considering a redesign.
I say that with some trepidation.
I have found that technical and design questions regarding web projects can paralyze action. The delays frustrate getting quality content into your hands fast.
And Echo works now.
There may be prettier and more efficient websites. But in terms of shoveling content out the door, Echo works.
The initial decision was simply to put us on a platform that works well across all media devices. And we have to make some hosting decisions for technical reasons I won’t bother to explain.
So…since we’re going that far, we thought we might as well make some tweaks, fixes and outright design changes while we’re at it.
As we grit our teeth and take that plunge, we could use your help.
Right now we’re developing menus to group content and surface what is not necessarily already on the homepage. These are the buckets into which we’ll pour stories.
We’re looking at a primary group of buckets that likely will be stable. Every story we write should fit into at least one of these buckets, and perhaps more than one. A secondary menu will change as issues heat up or cool.
Here’s an initial brainstorm for that high level stable menu:
That’s a fairly traditional way of looking at things. But there are a few problems. Will readers really look for a stories as diverse as farming, bike lanes and urban decay under land?
Another: We write a lot about beaches, wetlands, and where land meets water – the nearshore. But does the public understand that term well enough to call it that?
Yet another: Perhaps this is a blind spot in our coverage, but we don’t write much about air. Is it worth devoting a high level category to it?
But the big thing is that we pride ourselves on thinking about environmental news coverage in new and unusual ways. This is a traditional list.
An advantage that we have at Echo is access to young journalists to stretch our thinking on delivering environmental journalism. Here’s what Echo reporter Becky McKendry said after first diplomatically noting that this initial list is great:
“Not to suggest too many sections, but some other ideas to toss around might be urban sustainability, or something to that tune. In there, we could put our food desert stories, farmers market stories, most – if not all – of our green building profiles.
“And also, maybe an “Arts & Etc.” section to put some assorted “environment in the arts and humanities” type stories. Interviews with authors, stories about Great Lakes plays and museum exhibits and films and all the weird, otherwise unclassifiable stories we’ve written – like the skateboarder guy, and the Minnesotan musician.
“I also like the idea of showing our range – that we cover the typical things you’d expect like land and wildlife – and we also cover urban environmentalism, nearshore, arts.”
Now that’s a fresh view. Keeping it in mind, here’s another shot:
I can’t see how a Great Lakes news service can avoid categories for water, nearshore, invaders. And aren’t energy and climate givens for an environmental news service?
But you see the problem. Lists of categories can veer from too many to not inclusive. Debating them paralyzes action.
We’re not letting that happen here.
Another advantage of Echo is access to you. What do you think? How can we push the envelope for classifying environmental news? What makes sense to you? It’s not the worst thing to stick with tradition. Traditions become that way because they work.
I’d far rather tap into Echo readers’ creativity now rather than after we launch a new look. Let us know in the comments below.