Over the last couple years, most homepages of news organizations have gotten taller and taller. MSNBC.com just made cosmetic changes to their styles which made the page even taller, while keeping the same design. Here is how a bunch of news sites stack up height-wise:
ABCNEWS.com now is only 721 pixels tall, and if you notice a large percentage of it in the lower corner is dedicated to ad space. Why have the other news websites gotten so tall? Just look at them. There are links and categories and content all over the place. My favorite of them all is NYTimes.com. It easily manages hundreds of links and sprinkles in a lot of multimedia. It also utilizes interesting, simple navigation to easily scan through top stories. Everyone else is adding more and more content and letting people scan to find what they want by [gasp!] scrolling.
Why would ABCNEWS.com buck the trend and become more than three times shorter than the smallest competitor above? No scrolling needed there! The “below the fold” design had long since been abandoned. Why is ABCNEWS going back to it? Wonder no more, because they have a “guide” online letting you know their design rationale. Here are ABCNEWS.com’s reasons for the redesign, in order of priority:
- The site is 10 years old and they wanted to mark the occasion
- Clear, simple design to best showcase their reporting and clean up the “clutter”
- Harness the power of community for people to add to the facts, ask questions and submit video from their cell phones
- Easier to watch video on the website with a new video player
What’s really cool about knowing these objectives is that you can map them back directly to the feedback they have solicited for the redesign. While I’m writing this there are 350 comments on the redesign by their users. It’s amazing how much feedback goes to the opposite of their business objective of simplifying the design. So many said the page looks more cluttered AFTER the redesign. This reminds me of the Tufte example of phone books. We can easily scan through the Yellow Pages to get what we want even though there are thousands of data points on each page. I hope the people that redesigned the ABCNEWS.com website don’t get into phone book design.
This may illustrate that ABCNEWS.com didn’t get much feedback from people before going live, or maybe just didn’t care. It seems as if they would uncovered most of this negative feedback very quickly.
Here are a few comments from their website to give you an idea of the overall feedback, typos and all:
I think it's much more dificult to find the articles you want to read. it seems very cramped and cluttered (moreso than the old one!). Videos are nice sometimes but I'd rather read a story. It looks pretty... but it's definitely less helpful than the original =/
Yuck! I don't want videos, I prefer the stories that I can read through quickly.
I don't have attention deficit disorder.
Not as clean cut as the old site!! It seems very cramped and hard to find what I'm looking for!!
information crammed in a little space. It is difficult to find and read the news
and it has nothing to do with font size! And, please cut the ads! Marielle
The new color scheme is nice but that's about it. There is nothing clear or clean about this site. The page is cluttered and I cannot easily scan the page to read the mornings headlines. There's too much crammed on the homepage not to mention all the flashing pictures and scrolling text...it all results in disappointment. Simplicity is always best and if that's what you were aiming for, I think another try is in order.
I’m confused by this redesign from many standpoints. The last design was not bad and I even blogged about their cool use of “trigger categories” a couple months back. Redesigns don’t happen much these days anymore either. Point-releases seem to be popular and make a lot of sense. ESPN.com does this more than most, almost to a fault. The idea that simple & clean = smaller & less things on screen baffles me as well and is supported by the feedback. If you look at their new design there is still a ton of content, it is just hidden in scrolling categories. I can’t easily winnow anymore. Even the scrolling widgets aren’t very usable, especially the one at the bottom which is really just linear navigation. I wonder if they will go back to the old design like the NBA did with their new basketball design. I think a point-release may be in the works.
UPDATE: It seems as if they deleted the 350 or so negative-slanted comments from their website and started fresh which has made their users even more perturbed. I don't think they actually deleted the page, they just created a similar "How to use this new website" page that seemed like the previous "Guide to the site" page. This is getting ugly.
Check out Adam Messinger's great technology dissection of this on his Zenscope Studio blog.