Usability study compares online news presentations

Written by Adrian Holovaty on July 24, 2002

A Wichita State University usability study compares three presentation formats of online news -- "full," "summary" and "links" pages. A snippet of its findings:

Overall, there were no statistical differences in search time across the three presentation types. However, the Summary condition was perceived most positively in terms of ease of finding information, being visually pleasing, promoting comprehension, participants' satisfaction with the site, and looking professional.

Insightful results. The section labeled "Discussion" has the meaty stuff.

Comments

Posted by Chris Heisel on July 25, 2002, at 10:11 a.m.:

I don't think this study mentioned whether they were using custom-written teases or just the first few graphs of each story in their summary view.

I think far too many sites are just providing the first graphs of their stories as a "tease" to the full story -- which I find frustrating because I then have to scroll past the first graphs. (Plus if the story doesn't have a catchy, well-done narrative lede or a tight inverted pyramide lede then the first few graphs may not be usefull.)

At IndyStar.com, the site I'm interning at, we're required to write unique summaries/teases for the stories we put on the front page. (They don't do it on the section pages - which don't get any of the updated content we add during the day, but that's a different story...)

The content editors at the site say all their research and focus groups have shown that readers prefer them, and they lede to more people going deeper into the site than straight links or first-graph teases.

Posted by Adrian on July 26, 2002, at 9:16 p.m.:

I find it frustrating, too, when sites use the first few grafs of a story as their tease text. It's completely inappropriate for features or opinion content.

At IndyStar.com, do the reporters write the teases, or does the Web staff take care of that? I know you're kind of a reporter AND Web guy, so I'm wondering what normal non-Webified reporters do.

Posted by Chris Heisel on July 31, 2002, at 11:02 a.m.:

The Web staff takes care of writing the teases -- and I should clarify.

We have teases and abstracts. The Web staff writes the teases when breaking news goes on the front and the nightly production staff writes them for the stories on the section pages.

There are abstracts which are indexed by the search engine, which are usually the first graph of each story. Also, our newsletters use the first graph, something I think should change...

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