The St. Louis Post-Dispatch website isn’t exactly easy on the eyes. The amount of advertisements and just the organization of the stories actually makes it pretty hard to look at the home page. It’s just so noisy! You really don’t know where to look. Honestly, my eyes went to the Disney On Ice ads before I looked at the top story. So I guess good job on the advertisers part? I get that the newspaper needs to have these advertisements to survive, but I think they could find a much cleaner way to put them on their site. The “visual hierarchy” as Krugs puts it is severely lacking in this case.
As far as usability goes, once you get past the overwhelming nature of the home page, it’s not that hard to use. You can find what you need fairly easily. They have everything broken down into categories, and once you hover on the tabs there are then the featured stories and topics. So it’s pretty easy to navigate. They also, of course, have search and even advanced search capabilities, so if you really know what you’re looking for, it’s right at your fingertips. It’s also pretty obvious what’s clickable (until you click on a story, pretty much everything is clickable).
Once you do click on a story, it’s a lot easier on the eyes:
While the ads are still pretty distracting, the story pages are a lot cleaner than the home page. There at least seems to be some sort of visual hierarchy to it, and the sections are more clearly defined. You have the sidebar that’s broken into its own sections: an ad at the top, the search bar, another ad, then the social media sharing links. Past that, you have “most popular stories” and “recent posts” sections. Then you get into more ads and then ads specific only to local businesses. Honestly, if they would just keep all the ads in the sidebar like this, I don’t think it would be too bad. But the one they place in the story just seems so out of place. I feel like instead of that ad and the “related links” post, the sidebar story should be extended down the page (with just a slightly bigger photo and just a full paragraph and then the link to the full article all inside a separate sidebar box). This format seems pretty standard for each story they post. However, they did actually do more of what I was thinking here:
So, overall, while navigation is pretty easy, the site could use some cleaning up. A visual hierarchy needs to become more present, and the noise, particularly in the site’s home page, needs to be addressed.