how do we *feel* about these re-designs? (Technorati & News.com.au)

News.com.au

Two redesigns went live whilst I was mostly offline that particularly caught my attention, for quite different reasons. They are news.com.au and Technorati. From what I’ve read there’s been mixed opinions (of course)… so I’m interested to hear what you think of them.

Obviously it’s going to help if you’ve seen the previous incarnations of these sites. The News example is a fairly logical progression from the previous design, where as Technorati is quite a significant departure from the previous design.

Technorati Redesign

Both of these redesigns where unexpected when I first saw them, and with both of them I had a very definite ‘gut reaction’. I *really* liked the changes that the guys at News have made to their site. I really *don’t* like the changes that Technorati have made.

I’ve found it interesting in evaluating these two designs that this initial and quite emotional reaction is the one that has stayed with me. Yes, I’ve read all the comments from devestated News.com.au readers who don’t like the change, and particularly from those still using 800×600 who now have the joys of horizontal scrolling introduced to their daily online news experience… (that was a pretty silly oversight or decision). Similarly, I’ve heard people praise the cleaner, simpler, easier to navigate site that is Technorati.

None of these arguments are going to move me one inch, because my reaction is so irrational and emotional. The new News site makes me feel warm, the Technorati site leaves me cold (literally).

I think Australian’s can be pretty proud of the way that our main news sites are designed (the other example to check out is the Sydney Morning Herald… yes, they look quite similar, that’s a recent development). I find both of these sites do what I want news sites to do – let me scan and see if there’s something that interests me, but also present interesting stuff to me in a way that looks interesting and engaging. Hey, lots of the time I don’t know what’s interesting…!

Last year there was a bunch of hype around the redesign of the New York Times. It’s frequently put forward as the benchmark for online news. For me, I’d take SMH or News.com.au anyday. I think the NY Times is a bit of a mess… a visual overload with way too much on the page and way to little by way of hierarchy.

One of the great online disappointments, I think, is The Guardian’s website. This newspaper has the most gorgeous design in hard copy, but a very uninspiring online presence. So much so that I’ve actually just organised to have the paper delivered to my door every morning, and I rarely look online for news. (Although, I do still jump onto SMH and News.com.au every now and then).

Technorati I never really used a lot and there were usually only two reasons for me to visit – to do a search on a tag to see who else was blogging about something I was just about to blog on, and the occasional rankings checking that every blogger is guilty of. The previous design of Technorati was never something you’d get over excited about. You could find your way around, but it wasn’t particularly fun. Or pretty. Say what you will though, it did have it’s own unique character, Technorati looked like Technorati, you knew where you where.

On my first visit to Technorati after the redesign, I was pretty certain I was in the wrong place. Surely this is the site of a web 2.0 project in private beta who haven’t yet got the funding to find anyone who’s really very interested in design. This isn’t a finished version is it? You see… no matter how ‘clean’ Technorati is, it’s also unpolished and bland. I get no pleasure from looking at that site anymore. Not even to check my ranking.

Nope, I’m not going to evaluate these sites from an information architecture perspective or an interaction design perspective or even a usability perspective today. This is a post about gut feel. I feel really proud of the team who designed news.com.au and really disappointed with Technorati. These feelings influence my user experience and impact my usage behaviour. Rationalise it however you like – the gut reaction counts.

Thoughts, feelings anyone? :)

3 Responses to “how do we *feel* about these re-designs? (Technorati & News.com.au)”

  1. Craig August 4, 2006 at 3:39 pm #

    While I hadn’t seen the update to news.com.au, like you my initial gut reaction to the Technorati redesign wasn’t a pleasant one. The features I use now require that I dig for them. That alone had me considering other services. Not sure how many let me have watchlists I can subscribe to though. Additionally the layout feels unbalanced and in general just goes against every fibre of my being.

    I see they’ve just redesigned the homepage again since I was last there. It’s better than it was but not much. Hideous overuse of colour still makes me cringe. My skin is crawling so much so I feel compelled to navigate away as soon as possible. The old design seemed so much warmer, friendlier, less distracting when it came to reading the content. Even if it was surrounded by ads I could quickly filter those areas of the page out. Now with the animated colour ads in inconsistant positions and smaller font sizes in areas of navigation, I find it difficult to use. My focus becomes distracted. And those hideous coloured background titles don’t appease me one iota. They’re really trying to annoy me with so much of the advertising above the fold and in the way of finding useful information. On top of that inconsistant and overly lengthy column width on entries when not wrapping around ads makes it hard to scan for useful content. Garr! I just loathe it.

    Having now browsed the news.com.au site, I see its a definite improvement. I never felt comfortable reading news there in the past, while the choice of navigational fonts still doesn’t go well with me as I much prefer the clean menu’s smh uses over news but have always found smh’s navigation awful when I’m looking for specifics, thus news does a better job there and with the overall content space. Larger thumbnails and cleaner article titles make me actually want to read news.com.au articles. SMH looks cluttered in comparison.

    I think I need to go for a walk in the park after experiencing such horror.

  2. Tobes August 5, 2006 at 5:59 pm #

    Hey
    Having worked at News Interactive (which publishes NEWS.com.au) as a jounalist I was particularly interested to see this post. I’m now editor of FOXSPORTS.com.au, the online sports arm of News, and we also just released our new site today. Would love to know what you think of it.

    If you know News and follow its brands, you’ll see that the entire network of sites has been redesigned – including the newspaper websites like the Herald-Sun and Daily Telegraph. FOXSPORTS, too, is part of the family and we all designed to network standards while also attempting to keep our own flavour across all the sites. I hope you’ll agree we’ve done a pretty good job on this – my slightly biased opinion, of course.

    I can’t speak for News so much, but I know at FOXSPORTS we did a lot of user research and testing before even embarking on wireframes or anything to get a handle on how people consume their news (sports news in particular), which help push us in the right direction. We also took on board stuff fomr Information Architecture gurus to help us along, too. I’m a big believer in listening to the readers because it’s them you’re servicing, so you might as well find out what they like. The IA work that was done was also not only useful, but really interesting.

    Of course, as with any redesign, it takes time to adjust as a reader and a producer of content for the the site, making the initial release an exciting and daunting time. That’s obviously a big reason behind negative feedback, which is plentiful at times like these. I know with FOXSPORTS, moving from a vertical to horizontal nav structure was a huge change and will take some getting used to. But I’m really proud of how it has turned out first up, and so excited about driving it forward further.

    Anyway, it’s great to hear you like the design of News and the hierarchy of features on that site. That’ll make a lot of my colleagues very happy indeed. Hopefully you’ll feel the same about FOXSPORTS and put a big smile on my face, too.

    Cheers
    Tobes

  3. leisa.reichelt August 11, 2006 at 12:32 am #

    hey Tobes,

    thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.

    i have to admit I haven’t really been a close follower of FoxNews (although, it has had a few high profile re-launches over the years – and changed a lot in that time too!)

    my sports interests are pretty limited…. I’m mostly a cricket girl and not much into football of any flavour, so perhaps that is influencing my response to the site… I do think it’s nice and clean and perfectly usable but… I have to say… it’s not really all that exciting and sporty is it? I think I miss that a little bit. I’d like to see more great sports photography and somehow pick up some of the excitement/anticipation etc. that goes with sport (much more than news). This feels a little too newsy for my liking.

    I also feel like I have to scroll a long way to see a lot of the important content… I’m sure you tested this but I wonder if there was a way to compact all of the sports and their headlines closer to the top (are other people like me and more interested in *their* particular sport rather than all sports?) Given that the page design is so wide (unnecessarily so, perhaps, if you look at the article pages), there does seem to be an opportunity to reduce the length somewhat.

    And my last comment is to do with the Stats box up the top of the homepage… why do I have to click through to see the stats? I’d love to see a summary ‘at a glance’ here.

    So, there you go, my thoughts on foxsports.com.au – I can’t say really whether it’s an improvement or not as it’s not really a site I visit regularly, I’ll trust you though and believe that it is, and this really was just a quick look and reaction, so I’m sure there is plenty of rationale for what you’ve done. Would be interested to hear it!

    Congrats on getting the redesign launched – it must have been a big job :)

    Leisa