The News-Gazette redid their website this week and all I can say is "Really? This is what you've been bragging about unveiling?" It's like the N-G staff decided they wanted to maximize their appeal to the MySpace demographic or something. The previous site wasn't great, but at least it did what it needed to do. Take a look at it yourself, from a year ago. However, the new design is ... bleah. Worst of all the site's usability is poor and in many ways is a downgrade from the previous one. Here's my take on the worst of the new elements
You can't get to articles. Go to one of the sections, say "Local News". You can scan (and scroll, and scroll, and scroll) the five articles on that page. Now try to go to the next page of articles. Oh wait, you can't. You get to see five articles and that's it. An article that was replaced with a more recent one today? Nope. Yesterday's? Nope.
The search engine is useless. Did you know there was an election this month? The News-Gazette doesn't. I tried searching for "Alexi Giannoulias election" (totally at random) and found articles from 2009, 2008, even one from 2006. Nothing about the recent election. The search engine just vomits your search results in a huge pile with no way to sort them by date, refine the search, or make it useful in any way.
Letters To The Editor are gone. Not by accident; they've actually said (via Twitter, of all places) that Letters will now only appear in the print edition. You have to be kidding me. Was there a meeting on this decision? Were there emails titled "How we can alienate and disrespect our readers"? Come on, you have people interested enough in an issue that they take the time to compose a letter and send it in, and you decide to hide these from your readers? Lord knows I've had enough chuckles poking fun at some of them, maybe the N-G has decided they're actually embarrassed about caliber of the people that write in.
The more I think about this, the more I think it's a stupid idea. I'm not aware of any online newspaper with an Opinions section that doesn't have their Letters online.
That freakin' Twitter feed. Get rid of it. Now. It's not that it doesn't add much to the front page, but it's animated. It's annoying. It distracts me by constantly flickering in the corner of my vision while I'm trying to read. It's not like it's a live feed, updating with new tweets as they come in. No, it just cycles through past tweets, from hours ago. I'm not sure Twitter users have an attention span of more than eleven minutes; what happened seven hours ago is ancient history to them.
Contrast the new N-G site with the Daily Illini (which I haven't looked at in a couple of years and has been totally redesigned since). That's a student-run paper and it looks much less bush-league than the N-G's.