Nautilus is a science magazine that “delivers big-picture science by reporting on a single monthly topic from multiple perspectives.” The publication just received a National Magazine Award for its website so I thought I’d take a look. The website has a modern, clean design that’s easy to navigate but occasionally inconsistent.
The homepage offers a tile presentation of the latest stories from a given issue. The layout is common enough that users will understand it but unique enough to set this website apart from its competitors. The navigation bar on the lefts allows users to view the other “chapters” of the issue. This same navigation bar appears within each of the articles from the issue and adds consistency to the website.
Scrolling further down the page, users will find clearly defined sections for other content on the site, including the blog, a feature called “Three sentence science” and reading suggestions. This last section, titled “Popular on Nautilus,” is especially helpful for users who have not visited the site recently. They can choose to see the most read or most shared articles to help them find new content. Some websites have similar features higher up on the homepage, but I like this placement because the magazine does not have as much content. Featuring this higher on the page would not provide many insights from day to day for users and would ineffective.
A permanent navigation bar at the top of the screen also allows users to roam the website easily. I liked that some features, like the search bar and the issues archive, were a drop down menu but didn’t understand why this was not the case for all the features.
The click-ability of the site is easily understood through common signals such as highlighted text and image movement. The only problem I found was within the “Three sentence science” section. On the actual page with this content, each headline links to an outside source of the information. Normally headlines do not also serve as links so this was disorienting.
Finally, symbols were used to denote the use of videos. This small addition goes a long way to give the user more information about the story. When I clicked on this story, the video replaced where a feature image might be followed by some brief text introducing and contextualizing the topic. Then I found a list of videos and selected another expecting a viewing window to appear below. Instead, I heard the audio and realized that the video was playing in the same place as the opening segment at the top of the page. While I enjoyed being able to choose which parts of the video I watched, it was very strange to then have to scroll up in order to see what I selected.
Most of the inconsistencies I found would not be a problem for the average user of the site because as Krug states people form mental maps of websites. However with a few small changes, the experience of new and old users alike would be flawless.