A few observations on jamaica-gleaner.com, the Web site of the Jamaica Gleaner in Kingston, Jamaica:
- The site automatically rewrites the root URL to the current issue's index page. (For example, when I went to jamaica-gleaner.com, the URL automatically changed to jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020902/.) I have a hunch they're doing this so they don't have to maintain a separate main index page; their issue index pages (such as "/gleaner/20020902") serve as archive pages, and they've basically programmed it so that a request for the home page goes to the latest index page in the archive. This isn't a good thing to do because it confuses users in several ways -- one, it will probably cause some users to think they've mistyped the URL and are in the wrong place, and two, it makes bookmarking the site's home page excessively difficult because when you bookmark the "home page" you're actually just bookmarking that day's permanent index page.
- On the home page, there's a "More Stories" section under "Lead Stories". It presents a bulleted list of five headlines. Problem is, these headlines are not clickable. To access one of those stories, a user must click "More Stories", find the story on that page, and click on it there. This page would be much more usable (and less frustrating) if those headlines were just linked to their articles in the first place.
- I bet not even a tenth of people who visit this site notice the date in the upper right corner. It's a classic example of banner blindness: Content near and above banner ads tends to be ignored.
- And speaking of classic examples of common usability problems, this site is yet another example of The Case of the Mysterious Date. (See my review of indian-express.com for more.) Because that date in the upper-right corner is so far removed from the content, it's anybody's guess whether it's the last-update date of the current page or just a server-generated "current date" stamp. The solution: Put the date within the content well in order to give users a visual clue that the date and content are related -- and include the words "Last updated" for good measure.
- Having separate navigational categories for Lead Stories and News is confusing.
- It's frustrating not being able to click the site's logo to get to the home page. This is a standard Web site convention by now; users expect it.
- This news story illustrates a common problem in separating content from presentation. Check out that page's title. If your browser's title bar is long enough to show it, you'll see italics tags (<i>, </i>) around part of the headline. Clearly, the site's content-management system puts the headline into the page's title, verbatim. That results in sloppy titles like this one whenever producers insert HTML formatting into the headline.
- Finally, the graphic/table on this page is so bad it's downright hilarious. The source line is the icing on the cake.