Critiquing Time.com Usability

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This week, I chose Time.com. to critique. I don’t visit the site too often any more, but when I was a subscriber of the print edition, I did. Overall it is an overwhelming experience. I don’t get a very good sense of visual hierarchy, or where I should go first, when I first land on the page.  “The Brief” is a section on the home page that must be the breaking news and biggest topics of today. I’m not certain what the “know right now” header is – if it is always a multimedia content, or a certain “column.” It’s Time, so they feature their writers’ most recent commentaries on the home as well.

The left column I find interesting as far a usability. I get the sense that this is optmized for digital devices, though I have no idea how to prove that statement. The navigation that pops out of the “menu” bar is very mobile-esque, and the scrolling headlines as well.  It is interesting that as the mouse hovers over headlines on the left scroll bar, the texts turns red. This visual element may be a cue to users to click on the story to read more of the content. However, the rest of the home page to the right has no such visual element. Users are left to assume that clicking on a picture will take you to more coverage.

If you scroll further down the home page, you get list of the “Around the Web” sections of the website – health, world, etc. I find it interesting that this content is in the middle of the page, with a “Lighbox” picture slideshow below. As a web user, I’m used to seeing a navigation element like this towards the bottom of the page or in the footer. It’s interesting to me that all of these sections can still be found in the left-side navigation bar. And again, on the bottom of the page, the same sections are listed once again.

Time Sections
Multiple sections in different places on Time.com

Reading an article is not quite as overwhelming as the home page experience. The type is nice and readable and the photos are large. The left navigation bar highlights which story is being red as you continuously scroll down the page for more stories. This format is much simpler more friendly than the home page.

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To increase usability, I would simplify the home page and add visual hierarchy. Time needs to decide what they want users to read because they have way too many elements happening at the moment. Research would help define what should and should not be on the front page. I would only highlight the different sections once rather than three times on the page. Design-wise, I like their aesthetic and the simple use of black, white and red. Less is more for Time.com.

Kerri Williams Voyles
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2 thoughts on “Critiquing Time.com Usability

  1. I agree with you about the hierarchy of the website. There is a large amount of information on the home page, and I had difficulty understanding where I should place my attention when I loaded the page. I’ve seen many news organizations that have websites similar to Time.com. These websites have various elements in their makeup, and they’re confusing for the viewer to comprehend.

    The use of the sidebar on the home page was an interesting choice, and it was a strong choice to make. The sidebar helps the user navigate the website, and this will sound nitpicky, but the font size of the sidebar is too large. This large font made it difficult to navigate the sidebar in the most efficient manner, and this feature of the website could have been more user-friendly.

    The use of color on the webpage is professional, and it speaks to the magazine’s theme and content. Aside from its high amount of content, the website isn’t flashy. The design is simple, and this allows the spotlight to be placed on the content. White, black and red are the dominant colors on the website, and this is an interesting choice in color scheme. However, this is also my favorite aspect of the website. This aspect of the website best matches the theme of the magazine.

    The website definitely reflects the magazine, and that is seen in its in-depth nature. However, the home page of the website needs to become more user-friendly, and it should become easier to navigate. I feel that most consumers wouldn’t know where to begin when they arrived to Time’s website, and this confusion could very easily harm the business model of the organization.

    –Natasha Brewer

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your critique of Time.com. I grew up reading Time and watching the magazine’s transition to digital has been interesting over the years. I agree with many of the points that you made about the usability of the website. The hierarchy of the site is somewhat unclear, especially on the homepage. It seems that a number of websites have moved their navigation menus to the left, and have introduced infinity scrolling. When sites with these features first started popping up, I wasn’t a huge fan. It’s difficult for me to move away from the intuitiveness of a top navigation bar. I do agree that Time.com packs too much onto its landing page. A reader trying to find a story of interest on the homepage could easily be overwhelmed.

    However, I do think there might be some audience engagement strategy to the website’s design. Although, I’m not a big fan of the hierarchy on the page, I do like the use of infinity scrolling within individual articles. I absolutely read more articles on a page when a website have infinity scrolling in addition to suggested articles in a sidebar navigation. My guess is that Time.com’s design is meant to keep a reader on the page once they arrive on the site. Most visitors probably find an article on social media, and then they may keep reading the site because the navigation prompts more content. I also think Time.com is designed to be mobile first. I think the site would be a lot more user-friendly on an iPad where a left menu bar is much easier to tap and use instead of a top nav bar that has a hoover function. I pulled the site up on my iPhone, and I got a collapsed version of the site. Articles are listed one by one on my phone, and the menu button is conveniently located in the upper left corner of my screen. The site works really well on my phone, which isn’t always true of news sites. If the majority of TIME’s audience is coming from mobile (and it probably is), I think the website actually works really well for its target platform.

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