Journalism

News Web Design

Photo Courtesy of Jump for Journalism

When it comes to designing a news webpage, many things need to be taken into consideration. There is a lot of content that needs to be displayed; the challenge is doing so effectively. I think the New York Times website has a very user friendly and effective page.

Readability is key. News websites can increase readability by highlighting keywords (hypertext links serve as a form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others), using meaningful sub-headings instead of clever ones, usage of bulleted lists, having one idea per paragraph, and using the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion. Today, web users rarely read pages word for word; instead, they scan the page, picking out important words, phrases, and sentences. I think the L.A. Times should receive props for easy scan ability, but receives a low score in my opinion because it is bland.

Placing the primary navigation menu just below the header and above the content, in my opinion, is the most effective way for navigation. I like single-level navigation with a drop-down box; I think it looks cleaner. Although, the Times Online uses a two-level navigation menu and it is clean, concise, and clear. I think it works well for them. CNN uses a single-level with a drop-down box and it works too. I think it really all depends on the individual user.

I think sidebar banners for ads are less distracting, header banners require you to scroll past. The sidebars are visible but not a distraction. I dislike the Telegraph’s header banners. It is too distracting and it takes away from their header.

Page layout is also important. For a news site, grid-based layouts give a clean, organized, sharp look. It organizes mass amounts of content well and can be easily scanned.

Tabbed content is a great tool for news web pages. It allows readers to quickly view headlines and it allows for more content in a limited amount of space. Wired does a good job of using the tabbed content box in the sidebar, it is very accessible. The tab labels are very user friendly also.

I think the two most important things a news web page should have are social media widgets and RSS feeds. Everyone is connecting to social media and it makes it easier to share stories and articles, it also allows for free advertising by the link spreading from network to network.

I think the top news sites are—in no particular order—the Onion (I like the three-column layout), the New York Times (They keep it simple, clean, and organized), the Washington Post (It is clean and user friendly, I like the mixed media), the Los Angeles Times (They have a sidebar navigation which is clean, and I like how it is set up similar to an actual newspaper), USA Today (They have a very organized site which makes navigation easy), the Telegraph (They do a brilliant job of balancing text, visuals, and media), the Times Online (They effectively use the tabbed content), MSNBC (I like the colors and lack of ads), ABC News (Limited ads are great), the Ars Technica (Clean, Unique, Navigable), TechRadar (I like the featured content that rotates through the six leading stories), and SportingNews (It shows a lot of visuals, very effective for a sports news page). I do not like the Chicago Tribune’s site (It is cluttered with ads on the left and right sidebars, and above the header), the Tennessean (I don’t like all of the colors, it distracts from the content), the Chron (It is too busy and jumbled together), Mail Online (They have too many visuals taking away from the news), CNET News (They use too simple of a template, it looks like it was made on a beginner web design program), Wired (I like the general layout, but I do not like how the navigation bar is below content), and the Huffington Post (Their Twitter feed is better).

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