By Andrea Westhoff
“The Russia Left Behind” is a long-form website chronicling the slow deterioration of Russia’s main highway connecting the cosmopolitan centers of St. Petersburg and Moscow. The dissolution of the infrastructure is leading to the increasing isolation of peoples that live along the road. The interactive site is impressive, as per usual for the New York Times. Overall, the site design is consistent with NYT branding standards. Consistent elements include the serif font, black and white color scheme, and minimalist design. This consistency with the NYT home site is an excellent way to establish credibility and seriousness of the subject matter. This plays well into the somberness of the topic, and the design elements help cue us in to the proper frame of mind to prepare us for the sad subject matter to come.
An map infographic runs downs the side of the page, showing the road from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with map dots for the towns featured in the story. As you scroll down the page, the road changes color to show your progress. Though simply designed, the infographic is one of the only elements on the page, and is thus prominent. The starkness complements the starkness of the Russian landscape depicted, and the interactive element showing progress down the road helps the user feel invested in the story as if they are making the journey themselves.
Though the site includes pictures and video multimedia elements, I do not think multimedia is integrated as well as it could be. The gem of this story is really the writing, but I believe the cutting effect of the words could be even more effective with more images. The images featured are striking, but I believe true landscapes are lacking. Additionally, while there are audio pieces available in the story, they are not ingrained to play as the reader progresses. I believe this could contribute to user experience of the story by immersing the reader even more into the chilling effects of the words and the reality they reflect.