Web Design

AOL Canada relaunches front page

New AOL Canada front page

AOL Canada has launched its new portal front page, which I previewed a couple of weeks ago.

Pepsi is running full takeover ads on the new page, including the left and right gutters.

Media in Canada has a good rundown of the new design which, unfortunately, is not reflected in the rest of the site – at least not yet.

Another problem with the design: clicking away to a story, then back to “Home” often takes the reader to aol.com rather than aol.ca.

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New CBC Radio front page a standout

CBC Radio front page

CBC.ca has launched a new front page design, plus new section fronts for Radio [pictured above] and Sports.

All three front pages, like the CBC News front which was redesigned a while ago, are built to the now-common 1024-pixel width.

Story pages and the CBC TV front page remain at 800-pixels wide, however, so are looking old-fashioned in comparison.

My favourite redesigned page is the Radio front. It’s stylish, but functional too: the all-important “listen live” information is at the top of the page, and it includes the current programs for each time zone.

My only gripe about the Radio front is the use of reversed text. I’m surprised the CBC would use grey text on a black background. Readability sacrificed for style?

The “main” front page at CBC.ca is designed to promote the network’s shows, but you can easily skip it to go directly to the section you want.

> Executive Director of Digital Programming Steve Billinger explains the key changes.

> CBC blogger Tod Maffin likes the new look for his beloved CBC Radio

> The readers’ views are – as usual – mixed.

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Readers choose linear navigation for slideshows

Research published yesterday by the Online Journalism Review suggests that online readers tend to use linear navigation tools when viewing a slideshow.

The study had 34 people view a 40-slide show at washingtonpost.com. The show provided three options for linear navigation: a forward arrow button, a “next” button and autoplay. There were two non-linear options: an index of slide numbers and a thumbnail gallery.

Now, this was a really small sample, and the participants were exposed to only one slideshow so we can debate whether navigation choice was influenced by the relative prominence of each option. We also don’t know how familiar participants were with multimedia design conventions, but …

The results were pretty lopsided. Linear navigation was by far the most popular means of navigation. And those who used it tended to spend more time with the show (they were told to stop whenever they had “had enough”) and to view more of the slides.

As the authors say… it’s an intriguing area for further research.

Is the linear orientation to looking through material so hard-wired into our media usage that it is, and will continue to be, the preferred way to take in media? Even when it was visual information – as this was – and did not logically need to follow a narrative thread – people preferred to move through in the order it was presented. What does this observation tell us about innovation in digital storytelling and our audience’s tolerance for new design paradigms.

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Elevator buttons – another example of lousy design

In the wake of Darren Barefoot’s amusing post a few days ago about lousy interface design on mundane items such as stoves and washing machines, I stumbled upon this item by Simon Cohen at sympatico/msn today.

Cohen asks why there is no way to “undo” the choice of floor in an elevator:

People make mistakes. To err is human, right? Most of the technology that we interact with was built with this concept in mind. Light switches go on and off, cars have accelerators and brake pedals, computers have the indispensable ‘undo’ command. So why is it that elevators require us to live with our first choice?

Reading Cohen’s tail of misery, trapped in an elevator where someone had pushed all the buttons before getting off, I can see his point.

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Search, and you’ll find one ugly website

Search Engine Strategies 07 Toronto front page - 2007-06-07

Next week’s Search Engine Strategies conference in Toronto looks interesting, particularly the keynote by Seth Godin, author of The Dip.

But why is the conference website so utterly awful in its design?

I’m not talking about its SEO performance (which I haven’t checked), but its actual appearance. Some of the worst elements:

  • The floating width front page with its wide centre column makes for very long, hard to read, lines of text.
  • The vertical navigation is blue text on a grey background – but you weren’t interested in reading it, were you?
  • The sponsors’ logos are piled on top of each other with no room to breathe.
  • Even on my spacious 1400 pixel-wide screen I get a horizontal scrollbar.
  • Bizarrely, the bottom 80 per cent of the page is empty. (Maybe that’s where they hide the keywords?) 😉

I’d recommend the organizers of SES 07 take a look at the site for last week’s Mesh Conference, also in Toronto. It’s a simple site that’s a pleasure to use.

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Globe site even better after redesign

New globeandmail.com front page - Mary 23, 2007 

I’ve been an admirer of the globeandmail.com design ever since the site was revamped in February last year with a new look and Web 2.0 tools.

But the site’s front page got even better this week with the elimination of the vertical navigation column. Thank you G&M!

It’s not that I don’t like vertical nav. It’s just that when you already have three horizontal nav menus at the top of the page, things start to get pretty cluttered and confusing.

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Nice design update at blogTO

The crew at blogTO were at work during this past holiday weekend, putting a new shine on one of Toronto’s most compelling online destinations.

As blogTO publisher Tim Shore notes, the site is looking more and more like one of those mainstream publications, complete with horizontal navigation, email newsletter, and integrated audio player. (And, to me, that’s all good. There’s a reason most content sites adopt similar stylistic and functional conventions – it’s about ease of use, after all.)

Another nice touch is the rotating header image, complete with caption and the photographer’s details. The site welcomes picture submissions.

Compare the “after” and “before” versions of the blogTO front page, after the jump.

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NY Times and SP Times dominate SND awards

Dim view from a crowded jail 

Seven works of multimedia journalism have been honoured with awards from the Society of News Design.

Dim view from a crowded jail (picture above), produced for tampabay.com by the St Petersburg Times, was recognized for bringing together “photos, statistics, and the voices of inmates and guards”.

Judges cited the reporter’s first-person soundslide on being inside in such crowded conditions. “The package was interesting, well done, easy to navigate and full of interesting information arranged intuitively.”

Another winner that I particularly liked was the New York Times’ interactive graphic depicting how often various words were used in each of the US presidential State of the Union speeches from 2001 to 2007. Try comparing “terror” or “Iraq” with “environment” or “climate change”.

The New York Times won three awards in all, and the St Petersburg Times won two. The Philadelphia Inquirer and teen-focused Channel One each had one winner.

It would be good to see the awards spread more widely. So, multimedia journalists: here’s how to enter your work for the next SND.ies.

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