Through the Looking-Glass

The Readers’ Editor writes: Why did Scroll change its home page design?

Often design changes are carried out just for the sake of change. Not here.

For more than three years, Scroll.in had a unique look. Clean, no clutter and with a genuine scroll feel about it. It was such a joy to read as you took in the large photographs and the large text amidst plenty of white space. Readers went from top downwards, from one article to another without having to right-click or navigate hyperlinks.

Of course, as new sections were added, these got their own pages and could be accessed separately from the menu at the top. But the unique scroll down feel remained all these years.

Then a few weeks ago, we saw a change. Not a radical overhaul, but a substantial change nevertheless, which, in some ways, ended the uniqueness of Scroll.in’s design.

The home page now has three new elements: (i) Cover Story, (ii) Editor’s Picks and (iii) The Latest. Below this, you have the layout of stories as before – one below another. But the overall change is unmistakable.

In addition, on the right, each section has its own listing – a vertical listing in place of the horizontal banners that were earlier another unique feature of Scroll.in.

Why the change?

Readers would have noticed earlier that there were times when there seemed to be no reason for why an article was on the top and a more important one somewhere in the middle. There was a reason, but a not very good one: articles went to the top as and when they were published and moved down later in the day. So a reader who checked in a few hours after an important article was published would find it only if she scrolled down. Sometimes, she may even miss it altogether.

This was okay in the beginning when only a few stories were published every day. But now Scroll.in publishes – hold your breath – as many as 70 articles a day. Clearly, a top-down chronological presentation of such a large volume is a disservice to both its readers and writers. Scroll.in needed to present a hierarchy. The new design does just that.

Naresh Fernandes, Editor of Scroll.in, said, “The new design allows us to fix a ‘cover story’, as well as three other significant articles atop the page [the Editor’s Picks]. This allows us to signal to readers what we think is important, or interesting enough to merit their attention, as soon as they visit the site.”

I think this makes sense. The old design may have had its elegance but its elegance was beginning to act as a constraint on letting readers know what the major story at the time was, pointing out the more interesting of the new articles on the site and also listing the latest in news.

Often design changes are carried out just for the sake of change. Not here. As the Editor said, “The guiding principle of our design is no longer chronology but seeks to highlight stories that our editors have determined to be significant.”

We can allow ourselves a bit of wistfulness for the old design, but the current design retains elements of the old and makes the entire site more functional from the reader’s point of view.

Matters of caste

Now to turn to one comment by a reader and then a comment of my own.

Kartik Das asked if Scroll.in should not place the words “upper” and “lower” within inverted commas when referring to castes. I see Kartik Das’s point but I do not think it is necessary. When Scroll.in or one of its writers talks about upper castes, they are not saying that the upper castes are innately superior in any way. That the caste order is iniquitous is now accepted and in this unfair caste hierarchy there are some whose castes have traditionally been seen as superior. When a writer uses the prefixes “upper” and “lower”, she is denoting the position of castes in this iniquitous hierarchy. It would be a different matter if an article on caste was being written for a non-Indian audience. Then I would say the words should be placed within single inverted commas, at least in the first usage, and a suitable explanatory note offered. But one does not have to do that for Indian readers.

Can’t spin India loss

To end on a different note, on sports which evoke so much passion and, at times, disappointment. Those who are old enough to remember the time when the Indian cricket team was more of a loser than a winner on the field will recall the post-match rationalisations, justifications and self-consolations like, “We played well in the second innings.” Something similar seems to inform this article on Scroll.in on the thrashing India received at Pune over the weekend. It goes through various arithmetical and verbal gymnastics to argue that India did not play as badly as the score line suggests. Er? When a cricket team loses a five-day match in under three days and does not score more than 125 runs in either innings, no level of sophistication in the analysis can paper over the sharpness of the result.

The team, which was on a winning spree before the Pune game, may well pick itself up after this loss, but sportswriters could avoid trying to make it less of a beating than it was.

Readers can write to the Readers’ Editor at readerseditor@scroll.in.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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