Just a quick note to say that Quartz had a tremendous April, with 2.3 million unique visitors coming to qz.com. It was our best month since launching just seven months ago. That’s all thanks to you, our readers, who keep spreading the word about Quartz and our journalism. We’re very appreciative.
Our strategy at Quartz is pretty simple: Make good stuff that people want to share. In designing the site, we’ve tried to stay true to that mission by getting out of your way and letting the stories shine. Ads, meanwhile, aren’t shunted to the side in small boxes but included in our stream, where you might actually enjoy them.
We also know that news sites are not like newspapers, in that web readers don’t usually care about sections. You come for a specific story—often following a link you found in social media—and, if we’re lucky, stick around for more. Data show us that most of you read more simply by scrolling into the next article.
So we had all that in mind when we turned toward improving the site’s navigation. Earlier this month, we redesigned the mobile experience of Quartz, and today we’re rolling out some changes on tablets and personal computers:
The header at the top of Quartz is now smaller, more efficient, and clearly labeled. Many of you told us that the previous header was distracting, so this new one is usually collapsed and out of your way. But tap or click to expand it, and you’ll quickly see how to navigate around the site.
Obsessions are now more prominent. We eschew most traditional sections at Quartz. Instead, we have specific subjects we’re obsessed with and hope you will be, too. Those obsessions are now clearly labeled in the navigation.
Everything is in one place. The black bar that used to grace the left side of Quartz is gone, which we hope makes the design even cleaner. But all of its features remain: You can view top, latest, popular, and starred stories by choosing any of those options in the new header. Search is there, too.
Today’s update is among the more visible changes we’ve made since launching seven months ago, but we’re actually making improvements all the time. The Quartz engineering team has made 73 code pushes since launch, many of which are documented in our public version history. And there’s much more to come this year as we respond to your feedback, study data about usage of the site, and build some very exciting new features.
We hope you like the changes and encourage you to send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It might sound audacious to think that Microsoft, the arbiter of uncool, was at the forefront of design a few years ago. But it was.
It turns out the company’s decision to focus on “flat design,” a type of visual scheme where everything has a smooth and even look, was a few years ahead of the rest of the technology and user interface industry.
While Microsoft was flattening its interfaces as if it were a child pushing down on a bulge of putty, its competitors – including Apple and Facebook — were focused on skeuomorphism, a type of look in which, say, a note-taking feature on a Web site or in an app would look like a spiral-bound notebook, a reference to the real world look of a notebook.
Now everyone seems to be following in those flat footsteps.
“The best things can’t be planned. The “sleeps” post began life as something Leo wrote, but making a different argument. David and Ritchie were separately working on an analysis of the tweets, but didn’t really know what to say about them. I suggested pairing the two. Zach saw a way to do that by giving the post a new spin.
We’ve said from the start that Quartz is a mobile-first news organization, so it only makes sense that our first major redesign would be on your phone. Today we’re excited to roll out two big improvements to the mobile experience of Quartz:
- an update to the user interface, including more intuitive navigation, a cleaner design, and more emphasis on the images that make our stories shine;
- offline support on mobile and tablet devices, so you can take Quartz with you on a plane, in the subway, or anywhere else you’re not connected to the internet.
These changes reflect your feedback, our own aspirations, and data we’ve been collecting on mobile usage of Quartz since launching six months ago. The takeaways are clear: Keep it simple, put the content above all else, make it easy to share, and ensure that it all works for people on the go.
That last bit is why we’re particularly thrilled to introduce offline support, so Quartz will always be close at hand, whether you have a signal or not. When you open qz.com, all of our top stories are now automatically saved to your device. Open the site back up when you’re offline, and the stories will still be there. To make the most of this feature on iPhones and iPads, we recommend saving Quartz to your homescreen.
Today’s redesign is the most visible change to Quartz since we launched, but we’ve been making improvements on a regular basis. In February, we quietly released a complete revision of the code that makes qz.com work, speeding up the site and expanding browser support to include Internet Explorer 6 through 8. We also rolled out a number of improvements for older Android devices.
One thing you won’t find anywhere on the site are instructions or a walkthrough. Our goal was to make all of these features intuitive, and if they’re not or if you have any other feedback, please let us know at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org (for technical support).
Now that we’ve tackled the mobile redesign, we’ll soon be making similar updates to our desktop and tablet experiences, and we look forward to your feedback on those, as well.
Thanks for your support,
The Quartz Team
Quartz was also a finalist for Most Disruptive Publishing Technology while our parent company, Atlantic Media, was a finalist for Publisher of the Year.
Like so many other people in the Northeast US, the Quartz staff was displaced by Hurricane Sandy. We managed just fine and escaped the sort of devastation felt in some parts of the region, but today is our first day back in the office after a nomadic week.
Our headquarters in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan lost power on the night of Monday, Oct. 29. We were all at home by then, and the site was experiencing higher traffic than we’d seen since launch, boosted by widespread sharing of our collection of webcams along the East Coast and tips for keeping your phone charged. (At least 70% of our visitors on Oct. 29 came from social media, including 29% from Facebook and 27% from Twitter.) The site held up just fine, thanks to our developers working from home.
When the power went out around 9 p.m. ET on Oct. 29, we saw an immediate spike in visitors coming to Quartz from mobile phones—jumping to a third of all visitors in the 10 p.m. hour. (Only phones are included in “mobile” traffic here; tablets aren’t counted.)
You can imagine that New Yorkers suddenly without power had switched to their phones to keep tabs on the storm. That’s consistent with other sites, including our largest source of traffic that night, Twitter, which reported that mobile usage doubled in the hours following the power outage:
And while our spike in mobile traffic was likely concentrated in New York, visitors in the US only accounted for 58% of Quartz traffic last week. We saw intense interest in coverage of Sandy and other news from France, Canada, the UK, and Sweden.
Back in SoHo, our office was mostly spared by the storm: a window popped out of its frame, but the biggest issue was the lack of electricity. On boarded up windows around the neighborhood, a street artist offered helpful updates:
With the newsroom and some of our homes lacking power, the Quartz team spent the rest of the week in virtual-office mode. Christopher Mims detailed some our best tips for working from home in this piece.
To keep things running smoothly, we relied heavily on instant messaging and Google Hangouts, which we use twice a day even when a hurricane hasn’t swept through our newsroom. A lot of our staff always works remotely.
Power came back to SoHo and our office on Friday, Nov. 2, toward the end of the day. We were able to confirm electricity was back by communicating with the Quartz lightbulb, which is hooked up to the internet over WiFi with a Belkin WeMo Switch. The lightbulb was on, and we were back in business.
The heat isn’t quite working here at the office yet, but it’s nice to be back together again, having weathered the storm. By the way, we ended October, our first full month operation, with 840,343 unique visitors, a figure that blew away our expectations.