New site looks fine, but there are issues
As you are no doubt aware, The Telegram revamped its web site several days ago.
My first impression was favourable. It’s cleaner and more streamlined, with better use of white space and not as much visual clutter.
I’ve already heard complaints about the navigation, which is decidedly different from the old site. Part of that is valid. You have to click on a couple of tabs to find what you’re looking for, whereas the old site had all content listed in a standing column on the left, for easy clicking. But a lot of it relates to change itself – people are comfortable with a certain format, and become agitated when that format changes.
The page seems to be well organized. There are clickable windows, shaped like recipe cards, for each category (local news, sports, business, arts, opinion, etc.). For the most part, these sections can be accessed through a bar across the top of the page, as well.
Once you click inside each category, however, things can be confusing.
Let’s click ‘Local News’, for example. There is one larger headline, much like an anchor story on a newspaper page. That’s clear and understandable. Beneath that, a smaller subhead says ‘Recent news’, with a series of seven news headlines. Fair enough.
Beneath that is a standing feature called ‘Local in Images’ which presumably is a way to highlight the better photos that may appear on any given day. Problem is, these photos are not great at all – and the links to these stories already appear above or below, on the same page. This feature should be scrapped, and perhaps substituted for one large photo that is particularly striking – I am sure they can find at least one a day.
And under that, under the tab ‘Other news’, are 10 other headlines, this time presented with little photo icons on the left (only half of which are populated by real images). It is presented differently, but, as near as I can tell, contains the same type of content – local news – as the two sections above it.
This is confusing. When things are presented in a different format, we assume there is a reason for it; that they are being categorized in some way or other. In this case, they aren’t.
I know what’s going on here. The paper is adopting a template that has more of a magazine look to it, and that would be fine if there was logic behind how the stories were organized. But there isn’t. Local news is local news. Just one category. One list of headlines would be enough, in a template that allows photo thumbnails to appear where they exist, and for the placeholder to disappear when they don’t.
Next, click the ‘Opinion’ tab. The first headline you see – and these obviously change at least once a day – is “Halfway There”. Turns out it’s an editorial. Beneath that, under the heading ‘Recent news’, are seven more mysteriously titled headlines. When you click, you see that one is a column by Michael Johansen, the next by Russell Wangersky, then Robin Short, and so on.
Then there’s the ‘Opinion in Images’ box, the same one that appeared in local news. Except this one has links to news stories – right now, mostly sports – that occur in other parts of the paper. Confusing, for sure.
Beneath that, more ‘Other news’, except this is not news at all – it’s 10 more columns, letters to the editor and editorials, with nothing but an opaquely-worded headline to describe them. I should not have to work this hard for my fix of Wangersky, Jackson, Wakeham and Frampton. Confusing, again.
When I click the opinion section, I like to see a list of columnists, ideally with their little smiling mug shots, and perhaps a tab for ‘Editorials’. There is none of that here. The template is not working at all for Opinion.
Those are the key issues. I’m sure I can find others, if I poke around. (For example, the new web site seems to have eliminated all RSS feeds, another problem that needs to be fixed.) But I really think they need to revisit this template, and go with a clearer, more intuitive presentation.
There have been some issues with how The Telegram’s blogs – including this one – are presented in the new format, and on this, I have to declare a major conflict of interest. It is difficult to objectively review your own blog presentation, but here goes…
There are a number of problems, two of equal importance.
First, in importing my fairly extensive archive of blogs, they have somehow stripped all quotation marks out of the text. The apostrophes and dashes are gone, too, but these are not nearly as critical as precise demarcation of where a quote ends and begins – and regular readers know how frequently I quote others in this blog.
Oh, and all links and photos have been removed too. The links are important, often essential, to making my point, and sometimes I refer specifically to photos in the text.
Second, there is no chronology to how the previous blogs are presented. Not only are they out of order, there is no date stamp on them to indicate when they were posted (the date lends important context, in almost all cases). I notice that other archived columns do have dates, and are sequenced properly, so I expect this will be fixed eventually.
This was a soft launch, and the web site is a work in progress. Let’s just say I’m not satisfied at this point, and waiting patiently for the web folks to resolve these issues.
PLEASE NOTE: I will be on vacation for the week of August 2 to 8, and will return to active posting after that. I hope you are all having a great summer.