Quick word on our albums of 2012 feature. I hope you’ll notice the difference between last year’s version - a 50-page slideshow - and this year’s, which was all contained in one (albeit slightly unwieldy) article. I’ve taken to heart the Buzzfeed lesson, which is that, yes, multi-page articles drive a lot of page views, but they’re not sharable. By presenting the feature in this way I’ve sacrificed at least 2m page views. But look at those sharing buttons. 387 Likes for the annoying gallery. 6000 Likes for the single blog post.

It’s a custom design, by the way, not a template. Originally I was going to include links off to the original reviews, but the user experience would’ve been fiddly, and I wanted this to be a one-stop shop, so I used Thinglink to embed the reviews within the images themselves, visible when you hover over. I tried something else this year, too, a Facebook fangate quiz whereby users tot up how many of the 50 albums they’ve heard, and then share their score to Twitter or Facebook. A little trick I stole from Time Out London.

Quick word on our albums of 2012 feature. I hope you’ll notice the difference between last year’s version - a 50-page slideshow - and this year’s, which was all contained in one (albeit slightly unwieldy) article. I’ve taken to heart the Buzzfeed lesson, which is that, yes, multi-page articles drive a lot of page views, but they’re not sharable. By presenting the feature in this way I’ve sacrificed at least 2m page views. But look at those sharing buttons. 387 Likes for the annoying gallery. 6000 Likes for the single blog post.

It’s a custom design, by the way, not a template. Originally I was going to include links off to the original reviews, but the user experience would’ve been fiddly, and I wanted this to be a one-stop shop, so I used Thinglink to embed the reviews within the images themselves, visible when you hover over. I tried something else this year, too, a Facebook fangate quiz whereby users tot up how many of the 50 albums they’ve heard, and then share their score to Twitter or Facebook. A little trick I stole from Time Out London.

A couple of posts back I muttered something about the “tyranny of the nav bar”, which was a slightly hysterical way of saying: I’m so bored of standard web navigation. As a way of organising information, the nav bar - content categories all lined up spoddishly along the top of the page - hasn’t changed since the web’s early days.

It suits publishers, because it indexes content in a way that’s clear and visible to search engines. But it sucks for users, who almost never come to a site and think: ‘Ooh you know what, I’m in the mood for some video today, I’ll click on that.’

NME.COM’s main nav bar has barely changed since 2006 (you can see how the site has evolved over the years via this photo gallery), and you’d be astonished how few people click on some of those words up top - photos, or reviews, for example. It’s not that those content categories aren’t popular. It’s just that users access them from places other than the nav bar - partly via search, partly further down the homepage, but predominantly via social media.
Clearly the nav bar is not working hard enough to direct users to stuff they want to read. It’s just being ignored. So - why not change it? I was impressed by Forbes’ homepage redesign, which instituted a radically simplified nav, and I’m intrigued (though not sure it’s right for an editorial site) by the Vevo/Soundcloud approach, which is to hide navigation away entirely behind subtle tabs, privileging clean and impactful design over signposted content categories.

That kind of major redesign is not practical for NME.COM right now, so I tried something simpler: introducing different kinds of content to the main nav. No-one clicks on photos or reviews. But everyone loves Most Read. Why not put that in the nav bar? Ditto my new Best Of NME carousel, which has been so successful in driving extra pages-per-visit.

You can see those new site sections in action here and here. And the results? Er, decidedly mixed, if I’m honest. Best Of NME has been a hit, attracting twice as many clicks as the thing it replaced. But Most Read has been a puzzling flop. People go nuts for Most Read in the sidebar. But when it’s on the nav bar? They don’t wanna know. File under: ‘Well, it was worth a try, eh?’ 

A couple of posts back I muttered something about the “tyranny of the nav bar”, which was a slightly hysterical way of saying: I’m so bored of standard web navigation. As a way of organising information, the nav bar - content categories all lined up spoddishly along the top of the page - hasn’t changed since the web’s early days.

It suits publishers, because it indexes content in a way that’s clear and visible to search engines. But it sucks for users, who almost never come to a site and think: ‘Ooh you know what, I’m in the mood for some video today, I’ll click on that.’

NME.COM’s main nav bar has barely changed since 2006 (you can see how the site has evolved over the years via this photo gallery), and you’d be astonished how few people click on some of those words up top - photos, or reviews, for example. It’s not that those content categories aren’t popular. It’s just that users access them from places other than the nav bar - partly via search, partly further down the homepage, but predominantly via social media.

Clearly the nav bar is not working hard enough to direct users to stuff they want to read. It’s just being ignored. So - why not change it? I was impressed by Forbes’ homepage redesign, which instituted a radically simplified nav, and I’m intrigued (though not sure it’s right for an editorial site) by the Vevo/Soundcloud approach, which is to hide navigation away entirely behind subtle tabs, privileging clean and impactful design over signposted content categories.

That kind of major redesign is not practical for NME.COM right now, so I tried something simpler: introducing different kinds of content to the main nav. No-one clicks on photos or reviews. But everyone loves Most Read. Why not put that in the nav bar? Ditto my new Best Of NME carousel, which has been so successful in driving extra pages-per-visit.

You can see those new site sections in action here and here. And the results? Er, decidedly mixed, if I’m honest. Best Of NME has been a hit, attracting twice as many clicks as the thing it replaced. But Most Read has been a puzzling flop. People go nuts for Most Read in the sidebar. But when it’s on the nav bar? They don’t wanna know. File under: ‘Well, it was worth a try, eh?’ 

Just posting up the slides for my Guardian Masterclass tomorrow night on reinventing magazines. Should be a fun night. Details here if you’re interested.

Just posting up the slides for my Guardian Masterclass tomorrow night on reinventing magazines. Should be a fun night. Details here if you’re interested.

I’m sure you’ve simply been dying to hear about my new Best Of NME widget, which now sits about half way down almost every page on NME.COM, across all site sections.
It solves a problem I’ve been puzzling over for a long time, namely: how to surface, and breathe fresh life into, all the timeless features we’ve produced over the past few years. Does every link on the page have to be to something new? Wouldn’t it be better to offer users your best, not simply your most recent, content?
It also speaks to another challenge: if 65% of users come to the site ‘sideways’, rather than via the homepage - as is the case with NME - how do you make every article do the promotional work of a homepage?  How do you turn a shallow referral into a deep site journey?
This features carousel is my solution. It’s both editorially curated and random. There’s a master list of about 200 ‘greatest hits’ - the best performing blogs, galleries, and videos on the site, ever. But only eighteen display during any one site visit. And it’s randomised, so hopefully you don’t keep seeing the same articles.
I’m quite pleased with the results - it the first month on the site the carousel drove an extra 700k page views. But what’s interesting is that the user journeys it triggers are kind of super-charged. On average, a person who uses the Best Of NME widget views sixteen pages in that session, and stays on the site for 7 minutes. Which is way above the norm for us. 
It’s done so well, in fact, I’m going to introduce the same ‘Best Of’ concept to the main nav. That’s part of a broader rethink of the site, and whether we’re making it easy enough for users to find the best stuff. I want to move beyond the tyranny of the nav bar. Photos, video, blogs… it’s amazing how few people actually click on these words. That way of organising information is starting to look so tired. Meanwhile, everyone loves Most Read. Why not put that on the nav?
One other quick point about Best Of NME. You’ll notice there’s also a randomizer button underneath. That hasn’t performed quite as well - in fact, it’s kind of bombed so far - but I’m going to tweak it, monitor it, give it a few more weeks. It’s an experiment in serendipity. I’m convinced there are loads of users out there who simply don’t know what they want to read next. They just want to be entertained. I don’t know. We’ll see.

I’m sure you’ve simply been dying to hear about my new Best Of NME widget, which now sits about half way down almost every page on NME.COM, across all site sections.

It solves a problem I’ve been puzzling over for a long time, namely: how to surface, and breathe fresh life into, all the timeless features we’ve produced over the past few years. Does every link on the page have to be to something new? Wouldn’t it be better to offer users your best, not simply your most recent, content?

It also speaks to another challenge: if 65% of users come to the site ‘sideways’, rather than via the homepage - as is the case with NME - how do you make every article do the promotional work of a homepage?  How do you turn a shallow referral into a deep site journey?

This features carousel is my solution. It’s both editorially curated and random. There’s a master list of about 200 ‘greatest hits’ - the best performing blogs, galleries, and videos on the site, ever. But only eighteen display during any one site visit. And it’s randomised, so hopefully you don’t keep seeing the same articles.

I’m quite pleased with the results - it the first month on the site the carousel drove an extra 700k page views. But what’s interesting is that the user journeys it triggers are kind of super-charged. On average, a person who uses the Best Of NME widget views sixteen pages in that session, and stays on the site for 7 minutes. Which is way above the norm for us. 

It’s done so well, in fact, I’m going to introduce the same ‘Best Of’ concept to the main nav. That’s part of a broader rethink of the site, and whether we’re making it easy enough for users to find the best stuff. I want to move beyond the tyranny of the nav bar. Photos, video, blogs… it’s amazing how few people actually click on these words. That way of organising information is starting to look so tired. Meanwhile, everyone loves Most Read. Why not put that on the nav?

One other quick point about Best Of NME. You’ll notice there’s also a randomizer button underneath. That hasn’t performed quite as well - in fact, it’s kind of bombed so far - but I’m going to tweak it, monitor it, give it a few more weeks. It’s an experiment in serendipity. I’m convinced there are loads of users out there who simply don’t know what they want to read next. They just want to be entertained. I don’t know. We’ll see.

What the front page of Reddit does to your traffic.
We’ve had some Reddit spikes before, but none quite like this. The second our Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters hiatus story was upvoted to the front page, views went mental: it led to our biggest one-day traffic ever, bringing an extra half a million people to the site inside 24 hours.
Obviously, the immediate thought that occurs is: how can we make this happen again? But that’s the beauty of Reddit. That’s what makes it such a beloved community: you can’t game it. Well, you can try, but if you post links to your own site the whole time, you’ll soon get found out, and banned.
Reddit traffic is similar to StumbleUpon traffic, in that it can’t be artificially stimulated. You just have to hope a Redditor posts one of your articles, and then hope the community upvotes it. It’s quite pure in that sense - it’s not algorithmic or robotic. It’s human-powered, and democratic.
Admittedly you can try and second-guess what the community will go for, but seeing as Reddit is a limitless thicket of vastly differing content strands - the front page might have a New Scientist article on string theory right next to a LOLsome photo of a surfing goat - there’s really no point even trying.
It’s been interesting, in the wake of Obama’s Q&A session on Reddit, watching the mainstream media trying to grapple with the site, trying to work out its appeal. A lot of journalists, especially, just don’t get it. It seems to break all the rules: it looks terrible, doesn’t bother with social media or SEO. It appears to not be trying very hard.
And yet it performs phenomenally well, consistently delighting its audience of 40m users.

Which I think illustrates an important point. Most users don’t care about design; they value community far more highly. And Reddit’s community is like no other. It’s forbidding to outsiders - it has its own jargon, memes and customs - and that’s precisely why members love it so much. It has enormous scale, but it also feels clubby and private.

It’s clear that Buzzfeed’s strategy is to take the community aspect of Reddit, and translate it to a ‘proper’ web environment: one that non-nerds can understand, and advertisers aren’t terrified of. Sometimes that involves stealing ideas outright. More usually they’ll take an idea, and finesse it, give it a fresh spin. 

As a result, the media gets Buzzfeed in a way it doesn’t get Reddit. That’s why Buzzfeed is destined to be a far bigger, richer company. But I still don’t think it quite has the weird, cacophonous, haywire, people-power quality of Reddit. It’s a magical and mysterious thing. Like I say, you just can’t game it.

What the front page of Reddit does to your traffic.

We’ve had some Reddit spikes before, but none quite like this. The second our Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters hiatus story was upvoted to the front page, views went mental: it led to our biggest one-day traffic ever, bringing an extra half a million people to the site inside 24 hours.

Obviously, the immediate thought that occurs is: how can we make this happen again? But that’s the beauty of Reddit. That’s what makes it such a beloved community: you can’t game it. Well, you can try, but if you post links to your own site the whole time, you’ll soon get found out, and banned.

Reddit traffic is similar to StumbleUpon traffic, in that it can’t be artificially stimulated. You just have to hope a Redditor posts one of your articles, and then hope the community upvotes it. It’s quite pure in that sense - it’s not algorithmic or robotic. It’s human-powered, and democratic.

Admittedly you can try and second-guess what the community will go for, but seeing as Reddit is a limitless thicket of vastly differing content strands - the front page might have a New Scientist article on string theory right next to a LOLsome photo of a surfing goat - there’s really no point even trying.

It’s been interesting, in the wake of Obama’s Q&A session on Reddit, watching the mainstream media trying to grapple with the site, trying to work out its appeal. A lot of journalists, especially, just don’t get it. It seems to break all the rules: it looks terrible, doesn’t bother with social media or SEO. It appears to not be trying very hard.

And yet it performs phenomenally well, consistently delighting its audience of 40m users.

Which I think illustrates an important point. Most users don’t care about design; they value community far more highly. And Reddit’s community is like no other. It’s forbidding to outsiders - it has its own jargon, memes and customs - and that’s precisely why members love it so much. It has enormous scale, but it also feels clubby and private.

It’s clear that Buzzfeed’s strategy is to take the community aspect of Reddit, and translate it to a ‘proper’ web environment: one that non-nerds can understand, and advertisers aren’t terrified of. Sometimes that involves stealing ideas outright. More usually they’ll take an idea, and finesse it, give it a fresh spin. 

As a result, the media gets Buzzfeed in a way it doesn’t get Reddit. That’s why Buzzfeed is destined to be a far bigger, richer company. But I still don’t think it quite has the weird, cacophonous, haywire, people-power quality of Reddit. It’s a magical and mysterious thing. Like I say, you just can’t game it.

Here’s an interview I did recently with Journalism.co.uk about how I use digital tools - mostly a combination of hashtags, Facebook Subscribe, Tumblr and Spotify playlists - to build a community and generate feature ideas. Not sure how I feel about that word ‘harvest’, its sounds vaguely sinister.

The piece covers some of the same ground as the talk I gave at News Rewired about NME’s use of social media, though it also includes some of the cool extra bits I didn’t get a chance to elaborate on, such as Thinglink.

Here’s an interview I did recently with Journalism.co.uk about how I use digital tools - mostly a combination of hashtags, Facebook Subscribe, Tumblr and Spotify playlists - to build a community and generate feature ideas. Not sure how I feel about that word ‘harvest’, its sounds vaguely sinister.

The piece covers some of the same ground as the talk I gave at News Rewired about NME’s use of social media, though it also includes some of the cool extra bits I didn’t get a chance to elaborate on, such as Thinglink.

NME.COM picked up two AOP Awards recently: Best Consumer Website, and Use Of Social Media.
In the first category, somewhat improbably, we won out over the likes of The Guardian, MailOnline, Huffington Post and Sunday Times. The judges said: ‘With a host of innovative partnerships, a  great example of how digital has become the dominant platform for a brand that has made a successful transformation from print to digital.’
In the social media category, we came top of a field that also included The Guardian’s much-touted facebook app. Judges noted how we’d ‘reimagined the whole brand through the intelligent use of social media, covering all touchpoints and platforms appropriate to its audience.’
Cheers, AOP judging types!

NME.COM picked up two AOP Awards recently: Best Consumer Website, and Use Of Social Media.

In the first category, somewhat improbably, we won out over the likes of The Guardian, MailOnline, Huffington Post and Sunday Times. The judges said: ‘With a host of innovative partnerships, a  great example of how digital has become the dominant platform for a brand that has made a successful transformation from print to digital.’

In the social media category, we came top of a field that also included The Guardian’s much-touted facebook app. Judges noted how we’d ‘reimagined the whole brand through the intelligent use of social media, covering all touchpoints and platforms appropriate to its audience.’

Cheers, AOP judging types!

To coincide with the launch of our Spotify app, which is all about recommending the best new music, I gave NME.COM/newmusic a refresh. The main aim was to take some of the friction out of the user experience (previously the new music section sent people off to endless different blogs and sub-sections), and make it as quick and easy as possible for people to discover new bands at-a-glance, without having to click through endless pages.
In fact the new-look section enables users to discover the best stuff without ever leaving the page. Key features are:
Cleaner, calmer design 
Highlights carousel: ‘New bands we love’ 
Fixed soundcloud player featuring must-hear tracks 
Scrolling blog view, to replace the static index we had before 
Album and track reviews brought within the ‘new music’ umbrella
Twitter widget to display live updates from @NME_Radar 
Continuous streaming via Shuffler.fm 
Faster-loading pages on mobile 
The Soundcloud player is a bit of a hack. The widget you see on a lot of music blogs, eg Abeano's 'What's On The Stereo' section, requires writers to upload tracks themselves. I wanted something that was more drag-and-drop, using only official and above-board soundcloud streams. So I went with Webdoc's Soundcloud widget (you might remember I used Webdoc for my #tracksofthe90s engagement experiment on Facebook a while back).
The Shuffler.fm integration was something that came along at the last minute. Tim Heineke, the guy behind the app, dropped by the office the day before we launched, and I loved the concept: it scrapes a blog for all the songs it mentions, and then streams them continuously, radio-style, via an overlay at the top of the page. It basically turns any music blog into Pandora - and that sit-back-and-enjoy quality dovetailed perfectly with the ‘music discovery made easy’ concept behind the section refresh. Check it out in action on NME.COM.

To coincide with the launch of our Spotify app, which is all about recommending the best new music, I gave NME.COM/newmusic a refresh. The main aim was to take some of the friction out of the user experience (previously the new music section sent people off to endless different blogs and sub-sections), and make it as quick and easy as possible for people to discover new bands at-a-glance, without having to click through endless pages.

In fact the new-look section enables users to discover the best stuff without ever leaving the page. Key features are:

  • Cleaner, calmer design 
  • Highlights carousel: ‘New bands we love’ 
  • Fixed soundcloud player featuring must-hear tracks 
  • Scrolling blog view, to replace the static index we had before 
  • Album and track reviews brought within the ‘new music’ umbrella
  • Twitter widget to display live updates from @NME_Radar 
  • Continuous streaming via Shuffler.fm 
  • Faster-loading pages on mobile 

The Soundcloud player is a bit of a hack. The widget you see on a lot of music blogs, eg Abeano's 'What's On The Stereo' section, requires writers to upload tracks themselves. I wanted something that was more drag-and-drop, using only official and above-board soundcloud streams. So I went with Webdoc's Soundcloud widget (you might remember I used Webdoc for my #tracksofthe90s engagement experiment on Facebook a while back).

The Shuffler.fm integration was something that came along at the last minute. Tim Heineke, the guy behind the app, dropped by the office the day before we launched, and I loved the concept: it scrapes a blog for all the songs it mentions, and then streams them continuously, radio-style, via an overlay at the top of the page. It basically turns any music blog into Pandora - and that sit-back-and-enjoy quality dovetailed perfectly with the ‘music discovery made easy’ concept behind the section refresh. Check it out in action on NME.COM.

Just launched our Spotify app, which enables users to access NME’s new band features, album/track recommendations and playlists right there within Spotify - and the response among users, and on tech sites such as The Next Web, has been pretty good so far.
Previously I don’t think we’d ever quite cracked music recommendation on NME.COM, but I think we’ve given it a good shot here, in the sense that it’s a one-stop shop: you can have have the one-click, instant hit of new music, if that’s what you want - but you can also read 500-word, written-through interviews with these artists. So there’s also that lean-back, mag-like element.
Why build an app for Spotify? Well obviously you’ve got to be where the users are. And Spotify has 20 million of them. And while that’s still only a fifth as many as, say, Pandora, this is just the beginning. Spotify has momentum, and my hunch is that it will one day evolve into something like the universal OS of music.
Building it was an interesting experience, too. Not an easy process - they were hard taskmasters - but it’s good to get feedback from a really shit-hot, top-of-the-range UX team. I’ve never actually worked with a UX person on anything, so it was a valuable learning experience in terms of usability, and how to finesse a basic design. You can read a bit more (but not much more) about the app on Journalism.co.uk.

Just launched our Spotify app, which enables users to access NME’s new band features, album/track recommendations and playlists right there within Spotify - and the response among users, and on tech sites such as The Next Web, has been pretty good so far.

Previously I don’t think we’d ever quite cracked music recommendation on NME.COM, but I think we’ve given it a good shot here, in the sense that it’s a one-stop shop: you can have have the one-click, instant hit of new music, if that’s what you want - but you can also read 500-word, written-through interviews with these artists. So there’s also that lean-back, mag-like element.

Why build an app for Spotify? Well obviously you’ve got to be where the users are. And Spotify has 20 million of them. And while that’s still only a fifth as many as, say, Pandora, this is just the beginning. Spotify has momentum, and my hunch is that it will one day evolve into something like the universal OS of music.

Building it was an interesting experience, too. Not an easy process - they were hard taskmasters - but it’s good to get feedback from a really shit-hot, top-of-the-range UX team. I’ve never actually worked with a UX person on anything, so it was a valuable learning experience in terms of usability, and how to finesse a basic design. You can read a bit more (but not much more) about the app on Journalism.co.uk.