Site review: gazette.com

Written by Adrian Holovaty on August 2, 2002

Gazette.com, the site of the Colorado Springs Gazette, is a remarkably easy, pleasant read. It's clean, it's easy on the eyes, it's fast-loading, and it relies heavily on Verdana. All good attributes in my book.

  • The site makes a sincere effort at using correct HTML structural markup. Headlines are H1s, unordered lists are ULs, and much of the text styling is done in CSS. This is laudable; users of text-only browsers and other alternate browsers will be thankful. Unfortunately, though, the CSS is hard-coded into the top of every page, which means users have to download the same code all over again for each page they visit. The site's producers would do well to link an external style sheet to each page; then users would have to download the styles only once and let their browser's cache handle the rest. Still, it's good to see structural markup.
  • Oooh, and the left-rail navigation links all have TITLE attributes, too. And the tags provide useful information! This is a rarity in the online news world.
  • Obits get their own navigation link in the left rail, but the link takes you to the middle of the metro page, from which you have to follow another "Obituaries" link to get to the obits page proper. That's one too many steps. I assume they're doing it this way because the URL of the obits page changes daily, and they don't want to change their sitewide navigation each time around. A solution might be to set up a redirect and edit that each time there's a new obits page.
  • The p.m. edition, which is a Web-only bunch of stories published in the afternoons, is clearly labeled on the home page with a huge icon. (Well, maybe it's a little too huge, at 13K; and besides, it should be a GIF.) I can't stress enough how convenient it is having all the p.m. edition stories in one place, clearly labeled, at the top of the home page. And gazette.com takes it one step further: All the p.m. edition stories are published on a single page. Normally I'd question having unrelated newspaper articles together in a single Web page, but here it seems to make sense. The articles are short enough, there aren't too many of them, and I have a feeling they're more likely to be read because they're all in one place. A bright idea.
  • The site seems to link heavily to MSNBC. OK, so they have a "strategic agreement." But the links aren't so strategic. For instance, when I clicked on the "msnbc" link from the left rail on the home page, I was taken to the normal MSNBC home page, where a popup box prompted me for my zip code. Wouldn't it be a good idea to assume people are coming from the Colorado Springs area? Instead of asking for the user's zip code, the prompt could list a few zip code suggestions from Colorado Springs (with, of course, a backup input field in case the user isn't from that area) and make the transition much smoother. I'm sure the "strategic agreement" generates some money based on some wacky business model, but I question whether having the link to MSNBC is, in any way, helpful at all to the user, who's the person who really matters most.

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