Since I’m obligated to spend half my life on the website, the Missourian seems like an appropriate site to dissect.
Obviously there’s some room for improvement; Rob wouldn’t in the midst of a giant redesign if it were perfect. But the Missourian does do some things well, too.
- PRO: It can be very vibrant and inviting at times. The newspaper always churns out strong photography, and the website plays it up with large centerpiece photos, or sometimes even slideshows. The scrolling list of older stories at the top is very bright and attractive to look at.
- CON: That scrolling list of stories is a bit of an enigma even to me, somebody who’s worked for the newspaper for a year.
The boxes feature stories and packages of stories that aren’t necessarily fresh. That’s fine, but there’s no indication of that anywhere on the page. If I were a new consumer, I’d assume that’s an area of featured content. Truthfully, it’s just some leftovers and links to pages that consist of more links. It almost looks interactive, but it’s really not.
- PROS: The site does stick to some important print design principals. If you look above the fold (or above the scroll), you’ll see a few of the most important stories — often three featured ones and a larger centerpiece. There’s a good use of white space (or navy blue space, in this case) on the sides of the page. The MISSOURIAN “masthead” also makes it clear what you’re reading.
- CONS: The top of the page appears a bit cluttered, which can distract the user before he/she gets to the all-important centerpiece. There are two sets of tabs at the top, and again, I’m unsure of what separates them.
- The hierarchy of the sidebars is based completely on recency, which isn’t necessarily smart for a newspaper
- PROS: The search bar is readily available at the top of the page. If you’re looking for something specific, there’s a good chance you’ll find it.
- CONS: Beyond the front page, there’s no landing spot that carries any excitement. For instance: When I click on Sports, it’s just a list of sports stories. What would be far more attractive — albeit more difficult to execute and maintain — is a separate sports page that values the same principles of the front page. It would play up the biggest sports stories and feature some of tour photo department’s strong art.
I very much look forward to seeing the Missourian’s new website that launches in the summer. Experimentation could lead to innovation for the industry.