Okay, so I’m a big nerd and am going to critique the Mizzou News site. Before you scoff at me for picking the university’s site, let me explain. I currently intern in the strategic communications department for the University of Missouri System, and I spend a lot of time combing this site for good articles to feature on the system-wide homepage. I know this site’s usability really well. I might even be the site’s most frequent visitor. And, as a StratComm major, it’s good to look at what makes an internal news site usable versus what makes a traditional news site usable.
First of all, ignore the odd paisley that’s on there right now. Usually they have a news story featured with really nice photography.
The number one best thing about this site, as compared to traditional news sites, is the lack of noise. There are no ads, obviously, because Mizzou isn’t trying to take in revenue from this site directly. It makes for a much more pleasant user experience to not have moving ads pulling your attention away from what you’re actually trying to look at. Along with that, the large, clearly blocked sections create a pleasing visual hierarchy that reduces noise and increases attention as well.
The menu, with a search bar, is very prevalent when you open the site. Additionally, everything that is clickable has a rollover color that is opposite of whatever text color it is in the black/gold combo. Thus, users know exactly what is clickable and what will take them to a new page.
When you click into an actual news story, the page that it takes you to varies. Because Mizzou News pulls stories from all campus publications, the design and usability differs significantly based on the site of origin for the story. However, the stories actually written and designed by Mizzou News are well-done usability-wise. The layout is clear, concise and minimalistic. The page contains the story, media and navigation bar to lead the user back home. It is very user-friendly in my opinion.
Overall, this site’s usability is very good, which I say from consistent experience and not just a one-time browse over. Clear, concise, and to the point, just the way I like it. On the design end, it’s probably time for some updating as some of the fonts, color schematic and beveling are beginning to look outdated. It reminds me of an iPhone that never updated to IOS7.