Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The web is not equal

Not everything in the interent is as good as everyone says it is.  Some sites are built well, others not so much.  With such a large variety of news outlet sources on the Web, it is important to have a well designed and fun website to get readers to believe what you have to say.  Remember, it is common for people to subconsciously believe that better design means more credibility.  Here are two sites I have looked at in depth, digg.com and nytimes.com


Digg.com is one of the internet’s powerhouse blogs when it comes to news aggregation.  The site was created by TV host and info-geek Kevin Rose who left television after digg became such a huge internet phenomenon.  The original concept of the site was to gather RSS feeds of news sites such as the telegraph.co.uk and nytimes.com.  The site would put the stories up and users would vote the story up or down, in order to filter the most relevant news stories.  This concept of “digging” has been removed from the new version, opting to exclude the option to bury, or vote down, a story. 
                  The sites general function is obviously simple.  The main news stories are listed in the center of the page with the number of “diggs,” or up-votes, displayed next to the headline.  Each blurb also contains a small photo for nearly every story.  The simple white background and blue text is easily readable, using sans-serif as per the general guideline for online blogs.  The top digged sites are listed on the right of the screen, easily accessible from the home page.  Since each story is listed almost as soon as it is posted on the host site, the timeliness is unmatched.  The newsworthiness of each story is immediately apparent since each user votes for its popularity.  This can cause issues, however, when trying to find hard news stories.  Commonly, stories will appear that cover things such as video game glitches, a list of south park celebrity appearances, and the like.   
                  This, however, is what is commonly read on the Internet; small, to the point stories that grab the reader’s attention.  It is common that visitors will only read the one to two sentence blurbs that don the homepage.  This is why digg is such a success.  What’s more, when a user clicks on the link on the homepage, they are taken directly to the original source for the story.  The best feature, however, is that anyone can add their link to the list.  Each user is allowed only one digg per site, but it’s a great way to get your blog onto another search engine.

The NY Times has had a stunning reputation as one of the best news media outlets throughout history.  Recently, however, I have become uncomfortable with the layout of the newspapers webpage.  I can see what they designers were going for – a newspaper that you can read on your computer.  The articles are squished together in discontinuous square sections that, quite frankly, are becoming too cluttered. 
                  The left sidebar contains more than 50 links to different sections of the website, which include sections for world news as well as cartoons, blogs, and 5 different ways to view the news which NY Times has to offer (machine, reader, skimmer, wire).  From there moving right, there is a hodgepodge of stories that are ill matched to one and another that make it hard even to decide which headline to read let alone click to read the full story.  Therefore I have to state that, in my experience, the NY Times homepage has limited continuity and readability.  The page has limited amounts of graphics and color, opting for the full-text look instead of flashy, “come read this” news promotion.  The links (mostly headlines) are blue, which is easy to read and stands out just enough.  Once you click a headline, however, the pages with stories are much more fluid and much more readable.
                  Although the site has minimal options to verify facts in each story, the NY Times is known for accurate reporting and can be considered a primary internet news source.  Although news stories are not updated without refreshing the page, they are updated daily, causing the home page to change fairly constantly, which works well with the importance of timeliness in online news.  The stories are relevant to most readers since such a wide variety of them are offered to the reader.  So although the site itself is not the best design I have seen on the web, it is still a great source for news as it has (almost) always been in the past.

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