We have just added an interactive crossword puzzle to the site. You will notice that the crossword page sports a new look. This is a basic draft of the redesign that is in the works. Keep watching for more sections to move to the new look. Let me know what you think of the new color scheme and layout. For all you Web 2.0 nerds out there, the new layout is based on CSS instead of “Table Hell ©.”
USA Today redesigned (as anyone who has been to their site will no doubt have noticed). Talk about reader interactivity! Gone is the five-refer skybox, replaced with a rotating reader comment. Also new is a login/new account space at the upper right-hand corner. You can still get to everything with the colorful boxes (i.e. sports, travel, etc.), but they’re just elegantly tucked away. Want to tab between headlines and the On Deadline blog? That’s a breeze and you don’t even have to scroll down to get there.
I’m not so big on the fact that the site still makes you scroll down quite a way at the home page to find everything. As you scroll down, everything makes sense, but I still feel a little overwhelmed, like there’s just too much stuff to digest at once. I rarely scroll down more than one page’s worth unless I’m reading a story. I don’t like scrolling down to navigate.
That’s why books were invented, to overcome the deficiencies of scrolls. But here we still are.
A multipurpose thought: We talk a lot about finding ways to do what readers want, to do the job they’ve hired us for, etc. I’m all for giving people what the want, so long as it is what they *really* want. But how to get at that.
Here’s one possibility: The researcher Norman Li has used an economic model (a game theory kind of thing, in this case) to look into people’s priorities in mate selection. His study can be found at http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/LiLAB/Li%20et%20al.,%20200….
I think this technique could be extended to finding out what more about what readers want, too…
On second thought, there is one thing I DO NOT LIKE about USA Today’s new site, which is that to leave comments, you have to register. So if you want to leave a comment that says that having to register to comment stinks, you have to register first.
I don’t mind sites that ask you to register to access *all* content, but I intensely mind sites that use registration as a carrot. I guess I prefer all or nothing. But maybe that’s an unfair whine, because I expect that at some point, we’ll ask people to register to use our site.
Well, the reader in me isn’t always the same person as the editor…
Google has such an elegant interface – only about a dozen things to click on at its home page, and of course, just the one place to type in what you’re looking for. What would be awesomely excellent, I think, would be a local google, with the same simple interface, where you could just type in, say, Kiehl’s, and get results for where you can buy their lotion in the Valley.
Trying to find a product like that the old-fashioned way is annoying and frustrating, even if you like to shop (and I do like hunting for things). Somebody left a comment on my blog once, claiming that just about anything could be found in the area. I think that’s – let me think of a polite way to say this – very hard to believe. But if it is true, a local google would be just the ticket for getting connected to the product you’re wishing for.
It seems to me that advertisers/businesses would need to contribute to the database that would be behind that kind of tool. Or maybe there’s a better way?
To continue an idea that Al touched upon. Maps. More specifically, Google Maps. We’ve started to incorporate them with some of the local stories that we post online. If it is warranted, of course. And most stories will. The use of Google Maps is hardly new or innovative, but it does offer our readers (website visitors) a perspective that is not possible via the print edition. Static maps do not allow you to insert multiple flags with additional info + hyperlinks + photos + the ability for readers to post comments and photos (something that I hope to incorporate soon.) I recently found a news site that incorporated a Google Map during election time that allowed visitors to post about irregularities at varius polling locations. At a time of extreme weather, for instance visitors could also post comments and photos about the effects of weather in various location around a city (during a hurricane or flood, for instance.) There are a multitude of possible uses. Not to mention that all the data, (date, location, info) can culled to create overview maps, or what have you. The use of Google Maps by media companies, by and far, got a big boost by one, Adrian Holovaty, who developed Chicagocrime.org among other sites. I recently contacted him via email for some assistance and he responded very quickly. It’s great to know that some of our peers are so willing to share knowledge. He recently put this post on his blog about a fundamental way newspaper sites need to change. Worth a read.
A story this morning about levees reminds me of one of the big debates among print types as they try to figure out what people want online.
We plan to run a couple of maps online, one from the Corps of Engineers, one a Google map, that show where an at-risk levy is. This isn’t something we had the time or room for in the print edition, but as with many stories, it is no big deal to have room on the Web…
But is that worth the trip? Does it take more than a bit of relevant extra information to get people to go to the site? I mean, yeah, if the flood of ’96 happened again and we had video of the water lapping at the top of the Bennington Lake dike, I would go online to look at it. But a map showing where the dike is? Probably not.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do those things. I think we should, but I don’t think we should expect massive traffic to our site because of them. We print a lot of news that on its own wouldn’t be enough to sell the paper, but that sure doesn’t mean we’re going to leave it out. I view online extras the same way: Not the reason people go to the site, but something they should reasonably expect from us once they get there.
The debate I refer to is whether to simply (and it isn’t always simple) “repurpose” copy for the Web or do that, and add a few extras here and there, or whether to do something completely different for the online.
The 10 Ahead calendar in Marquee (the center two pages) wouldn’t be much use in that form online, but it would be wonderful to have an easily searchable events calendar. Those are two different things, but have essentially the same content.
I tend to think that Web content needs to be made from scratch most of the time, not just being the result of fiddling with print content…