I follow a lot of headlines for a number of reasons – b/c I’m interested in what’s going on out there, and I’m very curious to see how people are passing out info, that info usually being some sort of news bit. When I design I typically lean towards trying to connect an image as much as possible to a headline to give it context, plus people are more likely to be drawn to images that look interesting to them. Conventional thought is once they’ve become interested in the image they’re more likely to click on the headline. But then there’s times when it’s not appropriate either. And what’s tripping up that theory for me is a tumblr site that has the headlines to BlackBook Magazine. I’m not sure if http://bbook.tumblr.com/ is coming from someone inside the publisher or not, that’s actually not that important to my point below.
Before I explain why that tumblr site is actually more successful than its visual real site for my point and click habits I need to mention that I’m not a huge fan of using tumblr personally. I’ve created three sites and haven’t been motivated to update them regularly. But what I will mention is that my opinion of the tumblr has changed significantly. I get more traffic from tumblr sites to DesignNotes then I do for search from Google. My seo has never been that bad so that’s not the issue, when people reblog a post and someone decides to visit, they viewer knows exactly what they’re going to get. Search from Google can be a bit of a guess and doesn’t always satisfy why someone would want to come to a site. But I digress…
Back to why I’m more likely to click on those BlackBook tumblr headlines to the nicely designed real BlackBook Magazine site: As sad as it is for a visual person like myself, the stripped down version from tumblr gives the power to the words as opposed to having my eye follow many, many different starting points. It’s not noise per say, but too many options. Of course the reverse could be said if all I saw was 1000’s of headlines with no context. The power of the writing lives and dies with the tumblr site which is kind of risky. If it’s not a great headline I’ll never click it (unless someone passes me the link at a later date), as opposed to a sub par headline but great image that may pique my interest in clicking. “It all depends” is the easy way to look at it, but it leaves things up to interpretation which is always a gray area.
While thinking about the plain headlines it got me also thinking about Bloomberg’s news site which is anchored with just headlines. Stark headlines letting the content speak for itself should be a winner for the same reason why I mentioned tumblr above. The thing is that I don’t visit that often – not b/c of the writing but b/c I can’t take the black background. It’s a personal preference that I’ve come to accept. But soon as I reverse the site to white it’s infinitely easier for me to read.
Would I recommend that every site kill all their images and just go headlines? No, most sites kind of look like everything else which at this moment in time is part of the online UX beast. That trend will change, just not tomorrow. However it would be interesting to give people a couple options on how to look at a site. Just as some sites allow for people to increase the font size or change the background colour, maybe there should be a button that stripes all the images and just gives headlines. That would be interesting to see.