muse is proud to officially announce its new hybrid newspaper, a print edition complemented by a mobile-first web site, UWAmuse.com. While muse will continue to print four issues each semester, we will be ever-present on your desktops, tablets and mobile phones each week, a feature that readers have rightfully demanded for several years.
The challenge with the site was to get individually powerful stand-alone programming to work well with others, even though when they were developed, they were not designed to do so.
Jones added, “We are standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us, and as we look ahead to the future of web design, we realize that we have moved past traditionally static two- and three-column web design. Web users want to interact with information in a more organic way. Drilling down through dozens of menus is overwhelming, and we wanted to build a site that puts the user first.”
As Thomas J. Watson, Chairman and CEO of International Business Machines, reminds us, “Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all . . . good design must primarily serve people.” This is the muse design mission, according to Jones.
Jones was reluctant to use an off-the-shelf template to launch muse. He said, “Sure, we could have been up and running in a day or two with someone else’s design, but we wanted to create a site unlike anything anyone has seen before. The site is familiar, certainly, but it has some under-the-hood stuff going on that viewers appreciate, even if they’re not exactly sure why. We’re part Pinterest, part Facebook, part Etsy, and part Tumblr. We, like these sites, are equally obsessed with images that tell a story in themselves.”
The idea behind the muse website is to create a user experience that mimics the physical newspaper. For example, Jones pointed out that he habitually reads magazines and newspapers from back to front. “We want users to be able to instantly jump to the features they are most interested in. After we get their attention, we hope they’ll stay awhile and read some of our other offerings.”
UX, read: User Experience, a term coined by Don Norman of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, attempts to consider the needs of the end-user rather than the convenience of the designer. This customer-first approach is what continues to drive muse’s minimalist design.
Jones said, “In many respects, muse print and web design is heavily influenced by some of the greatest designers in the world, including Dieter Rams, a minimalist designer for many of Braun’s most memorable products for several decades. Dieter Rams once reminded his audience, “Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.” This design philosophy easily ports to the digital world, according to Jones.
Of course, Steve Jobs’ influence on muse can not be denied. He’s single-handedly responsible for changing the way we all think about all technologies both physical and virtual. Jobs once stated, “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Jones said, “Jobs gave us white space, along with the realization that all devices do not have to be putty-colored. His take on simplicity—and more importantly, industrial beauty—will reverberate for generations of designers.”
Jones added, “Ultimately, technology should bend the will of the user and not require reading a 400-page manual to operate, especially since technology changes almost daily. Tools to be intuitive. And transparent. muse on the web should be as accessible as muse in print form, if not more so. Just because we offer content based primarily on the written word doesn’t mean that it has to look as uninviting to read as a textbook or seem as daunting as reading the Bible in Greek or Aramaic.”
Another major consideration of UWAmuse.com was to find a way to feature our advertisers, who make our publication possible, in a way that is positive but not in-your-face. We are able to link out to additional pages of information into client websites for viewers who want more information. We can easily track page views and click through rates, but our main focus is to serve a handful of memorable ads as a way of saying thank you to our supporters.
“One of the benefits of online advertising is reduced cost. The response from our advertisers has been positive. They see an opportunity for virtually unlimited exposure using muse as a vehicle while directing saved money into other marketing efforts. We hope they will find other ways to support the university and its mission,” said Jones.
Simplicity stands at the heart of UWAmuse.com. Jones reminds us, “If it’s difficult to navigate, people won’t use the site. And, ironically, tech savvy consumers hate change. If you don’t believe it, ask yourself how happy you are when Facebook first releases a new, improved version. That’s why UWAmuse.com was designed as a mobile-first site with no pain and no learning curve. We could have created a collection of phone/tablet apps that displayed our content, but why bother? In a couple of taps, readers can have a beautiful hi-res icon on their home screens, on all your portable devices, that immediately opens muse in your default browser, formatted for the screen size of your device. If next year’s new hot device is a 12-inch tablet or —gasp—a much rumored 6-inch iPhone, you–and we–don’t have to upgrade. The site just works.”
muse on the web and muse in print will continue to be works in progress. We will continue to work to earn your trust as a campus news source. Right now, before you forget, open us on your phone and give us a look.
In addition to serving as muse advisor, Greg Jones also teaches photography and JN360 Mass Media Design, required courses for UWA Integrated Marketing Communications majors. UWA’s IMC degree is the first and only program offered in the state of Alabama that specifically meets corporate needs in graphic design, journalism, television production, marketing, advertising, and public relations. To learn how you can create dynamic print and web designs from scratch and possibly change your major to work in this emerging field, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.