The New York Daily News redesigned its Web site Wednesday. New features: A monstrously large photo on each section front, DHTML-driven navigation and a 468x60 banner ad directly above all stories.
But before we delve into the redesign, let's look at the old site design for some perspective. Here are two versions of the old design's story pages. (They come to you courtesy of folks who happened to copy the Daily News' source code directly to their own Web sites.)
The old pages were pretty run-of-the-mill, standard online newspaper pages. A gray left rail; small, box-like icons for navigation; and a standing "quick search" form. The most exciting thing happening was the use of Impact as their headline font, which you don't see often.
Now, it's changed dramatically. Here are some first impressions:
- Body copy has changed from the staid Times New Roman to a much more hip Georgia. Unfortunately, the type size is set in pixels, which means users of IE on PC won't be able to resize the text if they can't read it. (Speaking of font styles, the style sheet doesn't validate because of a few missing commas; this is nitpicky but important.)
- Navigation is much, much easier. A new horizontal navbar allows users to change sections quickly. And it's augmented by drop-down menu functionality that lets users dig even deeper.
- A bold section header appears at the top of most story pages, shouting out the user's current location and occupying about two-thirds of the page's width. It's almost as if this site cares more about its section's individual brands than its own brand -- "Daily News" is buried above each section heading, easily defeated. It's great to know exactly which section you're in at all times (well, except for a few sections that simply feature the Daily News logo in this area), but something about the position of the section headers, along with the thick, black lines, makes me think they're ads at first glance.
- The gray left rails on many story pages feel rather naked. They're completely empty on most pages, except when a story includes related links of some sort. They might consider carrying over a feature from their previous design by including the search form there on each page.
- They've provided a nice, detailed explanation of the redesign to help users who might feel overwhelmed or disoriented. This is great stuff. One interesting part was their policy on linking to old stories: "If you used links to stories from the NYDailyNews.com archives on your website, you will need to contact our Webmaster to get the new URLs. There is a $40 fee for this service, which may be waived for select media websites and some community/nonprofit organizations." Seems a bit steep to me, and a bit illogical; after one site links to nydailynews.com, won't that "secret" new URL be available to the public anyway?
- Curiously, there is no 404 page. Instead, any erroneous or nonsensical URL will be automatically redirected to the home page. This can be confusing and frustrating for users who might have mistyped a URL or clicked on a broken internal link. Not to mention countless previous links and bookmarks to nydailynews.com are now bad, from what I can tell.
- The Today's Headlines page is a convenient list of all stories on the site on a particular day. It's so simple but so helpful; I don't know why more sites don't do this. One thing this page could do better, though, is to keep headlines on one line. Strangely, many of the headlines currently on that page are split up into two lines, and there's no way of easily telling where one headline ends and the next begins. The headlines do turn a different color when rolled over, but this page would be a lot more usable if the headlines were in a list-item format.
- The site's ALT attributes are few and far between. I've created a page listing all the images from the home page with corresponding ALTs; most images are missing them. (The useful "ALT attributes - show all" favelet from this page made this page for me in seconds.)
- There's a link to discussion forums at the bottom of story pages: "? What do you think? Post your comments on our Forums." This link goes to the generic forum page. It'd be more useful if the link went directly to the specific forum for this type of story (e.g. if you were reading a story about the Yankees, it would take you to the Yankees forum.)
- And, finally, a look under the home page's hood reveals it uses insanely huge HTML comments to delineate the page's structure for (I assume) page producers. I question the extravagant use of these: When I checked, the home page weighed 68,084 bytes. After I deleted some of the comments, it weighed 58,371 bytes. What's more important -- thoroughly commented code for the nydailynews.com producers, or a faster page load for thousands of users?
That's it for now. Feel free to add your own review (or review of my review) by posting a comment below.