Like most millennials, I’ve been caught smiling at my smartphone or laptop once or twice. Contrary to popular belief, however, the reason behind the smile isn’t that my phone just makes me happy or because someone sent me a nice message, it’s almost always because I’m reading something funny. Do I look ridiculous when I’m joyfully fixated on the phone in my hand? Probably. But despite my desire to stop looking ridiculous, I can’t seem to put down my phone. Why? The satirical hilarity of The Onion grabs my attention and persuades me to read article after article.
There are a variety of satirical websites out there, but The Onion is regarded as one of the most popular and successful. So, what sets The Onion apart from the competition? It takes way more than a basic website and funny articles to make a satirical site worthwhile to readers, and The Onion clearly knows that. It’s website is easy to use, nice to look at, and is loaded with variety of great content; a trifecta that attracts and keeps readers from all walks of life. Whether we realize it or not, The Onion uses rhetorical awareness and graphic design to convince us that reading it’s articles is a worthy use of our time.
The Onion captures our attention by only releasing content that aligns with it’s clearly defined purpose: to entertain by writing satirical articles that relate to current events. Key stakeholders, like writers and other contributors, know their purpose and know that funny content is important to their audience, so that’s what they consistently give us, and that’s how The Onion build it’s brand.
When it came to designing the website, The Onion made it user-centric. Don’t want to waste time scrolling through articles to find one that strikes your fancy? Neither do I. Fortunately, The Onion suspected that endless scrolling wouldn’t work for us, so the content is categorized by subject. To make it as easy as possible for us, the categories are displayed boldly at the top of page as well as in a drop-down hamburger menu on the side. If we get sick of Politics, we can effortlessly jump to Sports. We know exactly what to expect and exactly where to find it, and that drives brand loyalty and enhances overall user experience.
User experience is also enhanced by the website’s sleek, aesthetically pleasing design. Each article features an expertly selected image that effectively does three things: creates a focal point, persuades us to read the article, and communicates the overarching theme of the article before we even click on it.
If we see a picture of an athlete, we assume the article is about sports. As simple as it sounds, featured photos are one of the first things readers notice, so they’re important. The fact that The Onion uses clear, simple, and easy to process photos to convey the topic of the article is no coincidence. On top of that, the bold headlines and simple fonts are easy to read and make the subject of the article easily discernible. All of this is a recipe for success.
Graphic design wise, The Onion’s attention to detail is another thing that sets them apart from the rest. Even the seemingly small things, like the logo, are expertly designed. The simple logo uses white space to it’s advantage; it’s attractive, on brand, and, most importantly, effective. The font, colors, and capitalization display the funny, sarcastic tone of the organization, but the logo itself still is professional-looking. The logo is also clearly displayed in multiple places on the website, including at the end of every article. Why would someone read an entire article if they didn’t like it? Putting the logo at the very end subtly reminds readers that the article they just read, and most likely enjoyed, came from The Onion.
Ultimately, successful websites have a lot more going on that we realize; websites are constructed purposefully and designed thoughtfully. If you’re in the mood to grin at your phone, you can find the latest and greatest Onion articles here.