Contemporary site
Contemporary site used for our experiments.

Homepage layout matters. It affects what people view on a website and what they remember from the news.

Across a series of three experiments, we analyzed what happens when people are given the same news content presented in different ways. Some of our 2,671 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, drawn from mainstream news media coverage about evergreen subjects, appeared on both sites.

The results were striking:

  • Unique page views increased by at least 90 percent when participants viewed the contemporary homepage compared to the classic homepage.
  • Recall of details from the articles, although low for all participants, nonetheless increased by at least 50 percent when participants viewed the contemporary homepage compared to the classic homepage.
  • 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.

Researchers

  • Dr. Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Dr. Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud
    Director

    Talia Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the Director of the Engaging News Project at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News (Oxford, 2011), examines likeminded political media use and inspired this project. The book received the 2012 Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association. Stroud previously worked at the Annenberg Public Policy Center; the name of this project is a H/T to Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s “E4″ work with local news in the 2002 midterms.

  • Alex Curry

    Alex Curry
    Research Associate

    Alex Curry (MA, Brigham Young University) is a doctoral student in communication studies and an assistant instructor at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include political communication and civic engagement, and he is particularly interested in how politicians use their own personal involvement with sports as a way to connect with voters. From 2005 to 2010, he served as a writer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he’s not studying, Alex enjoys hiking with his wife and four children.

  • Arielle Cardona

    Arielle Cardona
    Research Associate

    Arielle Cardona (MA, University of Texas at Austin) worked for the Engaging News Project from 2014 to 2015. She is a recent graduate of the UT Communication Studies program, where she studied women in politics and online political discourse. Prior to her MA, Arielle received her bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Arizona.

  • Cynthia Peacock

    Cynthia Peacock
    Research Associate

    Cynthia Peacock (MA, University of Alabama at Birmingham) is a doctoral student in the department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is interested in political communication, media, and civic engagement. Cynthia is currently researching the ways in which people express—and avoid expressing—their political opinions.