Most listeners interact with podcasts through an app. But as a web designer, I’m always curious to see if they have a website and what it offers. I’ve picked three podcasts to feature which illustrate the variety of shows and their different approaches to podcast website design.
Podcasts are mp3s containing music and dialogue, often talk or variety shows. Desktop and mobile apps allow you to organize and play back your favorite podcasts.
You know Neil right? Neil Degrasse Tyson’s the superstar scientist on all those shows about the universe and host of the 2014 edition of “Cosmos”. He’s also host of “StarTalk”, a show where Neil and guests talk about stars, space, science and whatever.
The “StarTalk” website is the hub of communication related to the show. It’s also the most actively updated site in Tyson’s orbit, a better introduction to Tyson than his professional homepage. You’ll find summaries of each episode, links to audio of the episodes, outtakes and related media.
I think the site serves its purpose well. The homepage is segmented into a full-width area on top that spotlights the latest episodes. This big banner is the most common web design element. Almost every web design starts there. Below the banner are two columns for subordinate content that might not be new, but fans are happy to have it organized and easy to find.
A complex media property like “StarTalk” has web design needs like a small business. Space for the big, new promotion on top, links to useful info and other sections of the site just below. This website’s too cluttered for me, but it still works.
There’s one major thing that bugs me. The content’s presented in white text on a dark background of space and stars. Very theme appropriate, but difficult to read for any length of time. Fix that guys, and I’ll be back more often. The nerdy, outer space vibe might be ruined, but I’ll read and digest information more effectively with a dark text on a light background.
A full-width banner row at the top lets the show promote its latest episodes and promotions, distraction free.
Grid-based homepage design makes it easy to show chunks of helpful information to engage visitors.
White-on-black (reversed text) makes the text hard to read and looks dated.
Welcome to Night Vale
There’s a town deep in the American desert where sunsets are noisy and mountains aren’t real. So, don’t even speak of them. Not real. Can’t even be. The town’s dutiful community radio host is ever watchful, alerting citizens to the latest cultural news, government mandates and librarian outbreaks. It’s weird.
“Welcome to Night Vale” episodes appear twice-monthly, 20 minutes each of community events narrated solely by the radio host, Cecil. The show is a throwback to days when towns had DJs known by name and radio was a vital source of news. If you’re listening, you’re a citizen of Night Vale. It’s great fun to enter this fictional world for whip-smart writing that’s very funny and often thought provoking.
What’s interesting about “Night Vale” is the development of discussion and fan tributes on social networks and sites not controlled by the authors. The show has a website, but it’s pretty spare, really just a sub-page of a larger website about other projects. Only the barest link to listen to the show. And that’s all it needs, I think, other than a merchandise page at online retailer Topatco. Why? Fans.
“Night Vale” supports a ravenous community of fans, especially on Twitter and Tumblr, who make their own art and stories. If you want to know about the unquiet town of Night Vale, listen to the radio show, see a live show or dive into the fan pages on Tumblr. The show’s success isn’t based on one website, but on a core of fantastic content that inspires the audience to imagine their own worlds alongside the authors.
A simple design focuses attention on links to subscribe
Space could be used more effectively to feature branded merchandise
Page layout is erratic, could use some cleanup
Marketing Over Coffee
This show is a quick hit of marketing goodness from John Wall, a marketing expert and expert conversationalist who welcomes other experts on the show to share insights on the latest news. It’s the most accessible program I’ve heard on marketing. Topics include new developments in mobile, classic marketing, social media and more.
Notice how “Marketing Over Coffee” uses a similar web design to “StarTalk”. One big banner to feature an episode, columns below to show other recent episodes and call-to-action buttons. If I’m a new listener, the banner tells me what to listen to first. If I’m a return customer or I don’t like what’s featured, the columns help me find an episode on something different, but still fresh.
There aren’t as many ancillary businesses as “StarTalk”, so the rest of the site serves as a repository for additional episode information, links to items mentioned on the show and other helpful notes for digging deeper into the topics discussed. I would like to have written transcripts of each episode as well, something Copyblogger does effectively with their program “The Lede”. A transcript is both helpful complementary content for each episode and keyword-rich text content for your website that serves visitors who love your work but can’t always listen to the show.
Just one design beef. It’s that white text on a dark background. Don’t do that. I know white backgrounds can look plain and cold but it’s so much easier for visitors to use as they interact with your site.
Clearly marked featured area at the top promotes the latest episodes and promotions.
Simple, grid based layout makes it easy to choose an episode.
Episode posts contain links and other content to complement the show.
Don’t do light text on dark backgrounds. Don’t.
These three podcasts are some of the best you can get. They do a lot of things right, but only the things that are right for their audience. Complex shows like “StarTalk” need a web design to accommodate their spin offs, bonus clips and blog posts. A fictional show with a unique, organically grown fan culture like “Night Vale” needs a page with just the basics. The fans do the rest. “Marketing Over Coffee” is just a solid site, perfect for the one-man and a guest format.
What right things are you doing with your site? Do you have the right approach for your business and audience? Let us know in the comments below.
Dig these podcast examples and hungry for more? Check out the design of Roundpeg’s own weekly marketing podcast, More Than a Few Words and subscribe!