Post-Connections notes: Chron.com

Written by Adrian Holovaty on January 30, 2003

Continuing yesterday's summary of my comments from the Connections conference, here are some thoughts on Chron.com, the Web site of the Houston Chronicle:

  • The left-rail navigation is alphabetical. Several usability studies have said such navigation lists are harder to use than normal (categorical) lists. (I've discussed this topic previously.)
  • It's great to see the clearly labeled last-updated time at the top of the home page. It'd be even more helpful (for non-U.S. readers) if the acronym "CST" were explained. There's no doubt people in Houston will know it means "Central Standard Time," but readers from other parts of the world -- visitors from Australia who stumble upon chron.com via a Google search, for instance -- might not. "CST" is a prime candidate for the <acronym> tag (as previously discussed); or, better yet, the word could be linked to a page explaining this particular time zone in depth, and providing a means for users to convert their own time zone to Houston's.
  • Screenshot of 'ARCHIVES', 'MAKE THIS YOUR' and 'HOME PAGE' linksAt the top left of the home page, I see three links: "ARCHIVES", "MAKE THIS YOUR" and "HOME PAGE". I pity the user who clicks that third line, thinking it's a link to the home page. These small annoyances pile up quickly.
  • On the lower right of the entertainment page, what's the difference between "Extras" and "Specials"? I'm sure the Chron.com producers know how they differ -- but, at face value on this Web page, they look to be the same thing. Some more descriptive keywords would help.
  • Screenshot of search box with 'Clear' buttonThe home page's basic, one-field search box has a "Clear" button -- a practice often discouraged because it causes more trouble than it's worth. Particularly for a one-field form, a "clear" button is unnecessary.
  • On the home page, the labels "Today's top stories" and "Other news" are unnecessary; they communicate nothing that the visual design itself doesn't. And the former occupies precious screen real estate.

Comments

Posted by anonymous on December 23, 2005, at 7:16 p.m.:

I don't know who had the bright idea to change up the Chronicle website. The new colors are terrible. Now I have to search all over the place to find what use to be on the home page. Bring back the old format!

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