A few thoughts on namibian.com.na, which is an English-language news site covering Namibia, a southwest African country:
- Because of the left navigation frame, users will consistently see "http://www.namibian.com.na/" in their browser's location bar, no matter which page they visit on the site. This is a big no-no, mainly because it's difficult to bookmark an individual page or send an individual page's URL to a friend. It also could confuse some people; Internet users by now expect to see URLs change as they navigate through different pages.
- The home page has a somewhat confusing linking scheme. The lead story has a non-clickable headline and includes a link for "Full story," but the rest of the stories lack the "Full story" link and do have clickable headlines. Consistency would help; I found myself instinctively clicking on the main headline, to no avail.
- Each article page includes a complete, clear and obvious timestamp. (For example, "Wednesday, September 11, 2002 - Web posted at 14:08:59 GMT".) Not only does that eliminate The Case of the Mysterious Date, it also goes above and beyond by including the time zone. Outstanding. News site managers shouldn't assume their users know what time zone their sites are in. The Internet is global.
- A sidebar on the right of each story page has separate links to "Summary" and "Headlines." I think this could easily confuse users. It turns out there's basically no content difference between a summary page and a headlines page; the only difference is that a summary page has a short summary about each article, while a headlines page has a list of headlines and dates.
- Speaking of headlines pages, they'd be easier to scan (and faster loading) if the date weren't reproduced on each line. A better solution would be to print the date once, then print the headlines for that date, then print the next date, etc. Also, I question the usefulness of having "Printer-friendly" and "Send to a friend" on story index pages.
- The navigation categories in the left rail are organized alphabetically, which leads to strange phenomena such as "Archives" being above "Africa" and "Entertainment" being about "Environment." Although one would think alphabetizing categories would lead to higher usability, the opposite is true. (See this previous site review for more.)
- The URL namibian.com doesn't redirect to this site. Rather, it brings up a "buy this domain name" page. The folks at namibian.com.na should buy it, because some users might type in that URL (without the ".na").
- Printer-friendly versions of stories include some navigation and links to other headlines. It appears the printer-friendly versions are identical to normal versions except the left navigational frame appears in the latter. Users and their printers would appreciate the printer versions more if that non-content stuff were cut out. (For an example of a great printer-friendly system, see edinburghnews.com, which I reviewed last week.)