I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and look at the website of a newspaper I grew up with: The Newark (Ohio) Advocate. The Advocate is a Gannett newspaper, so all of their sites look somewhat similar (such as USA Today’s site).
The first thing I think when I log on is that the site’s got a clear focal point. My eye is immediately drawn to the centerpiece photo. From there, I looked at the headlines on the left and then the weather widget on the side. The links and information aren’t just listed or thrown up without any clear understanding of what’s the most important, what’s second most important and so on. I do think the homepage is a little noisy. I could have done without the quick links on the left. I understand they’ve probably put that there because it’s what readers want the most when they get to the homepage. But, from a design standpoint, it does clutter up the homepage a bit.
As I scroll down, I start to lose focus. There’s a grouping of stories organized in block form, a scroll of videos, a scroll of photos, more story links, etc. The sections are clearly defined, which is nice, but it took me a second to really get oriented with what was going on.
Another good thing about the homepage — the main navigation on top stays on the page as you scroll. In fact, as you go through the site, the navigation and header doesn’t change. It’s providing you an easy way to return to the homepage, search or go to any other section.
The other pages for news, features, sports, etc. are all designed similar to the homepage. I think that’s a good idea because you have a familiarity with the new page and it’s not like you’re having to suddenly figure out a new way to navigate a page.
One interesting thing that I’ve notice all Gannet sites do is what happens when you click on a story. It doesn’t take you to a new page; it just pops up the story on top of whatever page you’re on. It takes some getting used to because it’s different from other sites. But I like it because you can easily get back to the page you were on by either hitting the back button or just clicking off the story.
Overall, I think the site is pretty easy to navigate. As Steve Krug would say, it doesn’t make me think too much. The pages are a bit too noisy for my taste. I think the tendency for news sites is to put everything out there so nothing gets lost, which makes sense, but at times I think it clutters a site too much.