The Maneater at Mizzou Unveils an Online Makeover ‘That Belongs in 2014 and Beyond’

The Maneater, the nearly 60-year-old student newspaper at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has just unveiled an online makeover that its editor-in-chief Katie Pohlman says “belongs in 2014 and beyond.”

As Pohlman tells me, “This redesign is the first major facelift the Maneater has received since 2008. There have been redesigns in the past, but no big overhaul like this one. Last year, we redesigned our print product, but we wanted to do something different with our online one.”

Among the more noticeable changes conceived and carried out by Pohlman, managing editor Lauren Rutherford and online development editor Tim Tai: larger visuals, enhanced mobile and tablet responsiveness, an updated masthead synchronizing it with the print version, a background color shift from light gray to white for a cleaner overall look and “lists on the side updated … with a snapshot of our articles and our presence on social media.”

Maneater site, 2004

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Maneater site, 2008

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Maneater site, July 2014

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In the Q&A below, Pohlman shares a bit about the inspirations behind the shift and offers advice to student news teams seeking to implement their own online redesigns.

What sites did you, Lauren and Tim turn to for inspiration when conceiving this redesign?

We looked at a lot of other college websites when thinking about the design we wanted. I know The Daily Orange and The Daily Tar Heel recently redesigned their websites, so we looked at those more closely than others. At the beginning, I loved the very visual display of the University of Georgia’s Red and Black, but decided that wasn’t the look for us. So Lauren and I compiled a list of features we wanted (big visuals, social media scroll, cleaner background and look) and let Tim design it the best way possible to incorporate all these features. I would have to say the Daily Orange was probably the biggest influence on our design.

From your perspective, what makes the new website belong in 2014 and beyond?

I think our new website belongs in 2014 and beyond because of the advanced responsive ability. Our website was originally created in the early 2000s and looked like it until this redesign. This new face makes the website easier to read on all platforms and more enticing for readers. It can also be a springboard for future developments in online journalism for the Maneater — because through the redesign we cleaned out our site to get rid of some of the old features we thought we could use when they were created but really don’t. Not a lot of websites are currently responsive, so this is a step that puts us ahead of most college newspapers and some professional ones. And as journalism turns to online more and more, it’s a perfect spot to be in. I originally thought a mobile app would be a better place to go, but I don’t think we have the demand for it from readers. This way we can still have readers access our site on their phones, tablets, etc., through social media or direct access without having to pinch and zoom on their screens.

Any advice for student news teams contemplating a similar digital redesign?

My advice for future news teams is to weigh your options like we did. Make the site work to the type of staff you have at your news organization. If your paper is heavily visual, make your website visual too. We had a lot of trial and error in the redesign, with certain aspects that didn’t work with our site, and that’s OK. I would also suggest having a student do it. The cost is much less and I feel it is easier to collaborate with a peer who is willing to sit in the newsroom at any hour of the day to discuss the website. And if no one on their staff has the skills to redesign the website, don’t be afraid to reach out to the rest of the student body. I advertised on computer engineering and IT list-servs at Mizzou for a few weeks before finding the right person for the job. I would also suggest amping up the organization’s social media presence if they redesign a website. We did this in reverse order, by amping up our presence first. But if you’re going to take the time and effort to create a great website, you should also take the time and effort to promote it and the content published on it.

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