Edinburghnews.com is the Web site of the Edinburgh Evening News in Edinburgh, Scotland. A few comments:
- As news sites go, this site's design is outstanding. Color is used to guide the eye rather than irritate it. Font proportions reflect information architecture and set up a hierarchy. Photos are nice and big, but not too big. It all works together to form a distinct, credible-looking site. (I've pointed out before that there's a direct link between smart Web design and site credibility -- and credibility is something all news sites should strive for.) My only complaint is that fonts are set using pixels, which means users of the world's most popular Web browser (IE) won't be able to make the teeny text larger.
- Navigation is outstanding, too. Main inter-section navigation is in the left rail, and some sections, like Sport, break out subcategories a la washingtonpost.com. On a story page, the right rail contains a convenient list of other stories in that section, with the current story bolded. Makes everything nice and easy.
- The scrolling news ticker on the home page and some section index pages is unnecessary. How many people actually sit there and wait for the headlines to scroll? This is more gimmicky than useful. Web tickers died about four years ago.
- A beef with teaser blurbs on the home page and section fronts: It's somewhat annoying and jolting that the blurbs are clickable. I often like to cut and paste text, but that's made very difficult in this case. Also, although IE6 turns the cursor into a link-aware "pointy hand" when mousing over the blurb, my primary browser (Mozilla) just displays the normal text-editing cursor, leading me to believe this text was not a link. In other words, in my Mozilla browsing experience there was no obvious visual clue that clicking the text itself will make something happen. (If you squint your eyes just so, you can make out a slight background color change when your mouse hovers over the text, but it's so slight it's worthless.)
- On the home page and section fronts, headlines display in the status bar when you mouse over them. This is irritating, because users expect to see a URL in that area. (Perhaps the edinburghnews.com developers did this to cloak the site's ugly URLs?) And redisplaying the headline in that spot is about the least helpful thing you can do; if a user moves his or her mouse over a headline, what's the point of displaying that headline a second time?
- The printer-friendly pages have a cool feature -- again, one I haven't seen anywhere else. On stories with photos (like this example), there's a "show images" checkbox that allows you to toggle images on/off. What a smart idea. It gives ink-conscious users a chance to print only the content they want. (I know I, for one, have cut and pasted text into Notepad just to avoid printing images.) The best part is, it's smart enough only to include this feature on stories that have photos in the first place.
- The search engine is outstanding. From my experience, a good test of a search engine on a news site -- or blog, or any other regularly updating information site -- is to type in a few keywords from the very latest breaking story and see whether it shows up in the results. Unfortunately, search-engine indexing delay (the so-called "Google Gap") is the norm, but edinburghnews.com passes the test with flying colors. Each search result includes a snippet of the content, with matched terms highlighted -- an outstanding feature not implemented by many news sites, or Web sites, period. My only complaint is that "sort A-Z" and "newest first" are far apart and not easily noticed.