Brent Simmons has compiled a list of rules for making the perfect online publication. I agree with nearly every single one. For example:
Design with little navigation
The way most people read is not to come to your home page and browse around. Instead, they get a link to an article via a feed, email, Twitter, Facebook, IM, and so on.
They’ll read that page and go. Close that browser tab. Putting up a whole bunch of navigation and call-outs to other sections of the site just makes the site junkier. There should be some navigation — particularly a way to get to the home page — but that’s about all that’s needed.
Forget any “social media strategy“
Publish things so good that people want to share them. That’s it.
No sharing buttons.
The site would have its own Twitter account and it would tweet a link to each new article. But that’s almost just like providing an RSS feed. (I’d probably automate this.)
Use responsive design techniques
No separate mobile version; no separate tablet version.
Update: I’m particularly fascinated by the concept of designing with little navigation. On the one hand, there’s the ideal of making it easy for users to get to any page on your website in X number of clicks or less, but in the context of a publication — which will have ever-growing archives (category, tag, and/or date) and article pages — it seems to make less sense.
The one caveat is that I think you want to have good navigation on the homepage so that people can quickly sift through the array of new content as well as quickly access archived content. Meanwhile, on individual article pages, do lots of deep-linking, i.e., linking to other related articles on your site.