The Honolulu Advertiser's Web site is worth a look for its feeling of, well, freshness. Something about its combination of liberal font leading, flowery reds and blues, the always-slick Trebuchet MS, and the clean, airy balance of it all make it quite refreshing. Some thoughts:
- Its home page manages to pack in dozens of headlines while maintaining a clean, easily scannable architecture -- not an easy task. Breaking news gets priority at the top, in a no-nonsense textual list. When I checked in the evening, it listed the day's breaking news in one convenient spot labeled "BREAKING NEWS/PM UPDATES." This is a great, seemingly obvious way of presenting breaking news, but for some reason many news sites still don't provide a way of distinguishing online-only content.
- Unfortunately, the home page uses small fonts that can't be resized in IE for Windows, and it commits a further no-no by using points for its font units. (As many designers will tell you, points are meaningless on the Web.) That brings up an interesting question: What's better, to look great but make your users squint, or to look lousy but be accessible?
- The site continues to use old-fashioned FONT tags for text formatting, in addition to style sheets. It's always interesting to find a site that's still concerned with looking good in version 3.0 browsers.
- One of the site's strong points is its tendency to organize content logically, which is something on which we all can improve. I've already mentioned the home page's orderly headlines. In addition, check out its columnists page, which is yet another seemingly obvious feature that I don't see implemented often enough; its Back Issues page, which presents all the site's content since May 23 in easily grasped calendar form (one gripe here: not all newspaper stories get posted to the site); and a one-page approach to a photo gallery, on which the photos are a bit small, but, golly, they sure are organized neatly.
- Speaking of photos, the Advertiser uses tiny ones. They're absolutely minuscule, and that's not a good thing. Heck, the large flower image on the site's home page is larger than the page's lead art. Fortunately, clicking on a photo will get you a larger version -- albeit just a plain JPG, without any HTML around it. Whenever I run into this technique, I get a sense of cheapness. They didn't have time to wrap some HTML around the photo? That kind of thing can be automated.
- The story URLs are semi-trimmable, which is to say they make sense and still work logically when cut. For example, cutting
en05a.htmloff this URL gets you the July 26 entertainment index; cutting the
engets you the entire July 26 issue index. It doesn't work at any higher level than that, but at least some of the URL is hackable, and that's a good thing.