An English-language news site based in India, indian-express.com is clean, colorful and easy to navigate. However, the site does a few things rather strangely...
- The first thing that leaps out at me is a drop-down box in the left navigation that calls for me to "Go to page ". Waiiiddaminute. Since when are Web pages numbered? I chose page 3, and suddenly I was in the "National Network" section. I assume these numbers correspond with a print edition of some sort? If not, I wish they were explained somewhere. (I couldn't find any help on this feature.) If so, this is a classic case of print mentality being applied to a Web site.
- On the other hand, this feature does deserve some credit for allowing users to traverse an edition of the newspaper in a logical order that (I presume) is determined by traditional editorial judgment. I think this idea is worth exploring; newspapers' linear nature makes for a much more focused reading experience. When I read a news site, a story will only "earn" my click if it appeals to me at face value (usually via a minimal tease, such as a headline). When I read a newspaper, I spend more time browsing stories -- perhaps because a physical effort is needed to turn the page, as opposed to a simple click?
- What's the difference between "Home" and "Front page"? (Both are listed in the left navigation under "INSIDE IE".)
- Every story I read had a horizontal advertisement that cut off near the bottom of my browser window. Some users might think the ad marks the end of the story. (I know I've made this mistake several times on other sites.)
- If there were such a thing as the Holovaty.com Headline of the Day Award, I would give it to this story.
- Here's a problem that many news sites seem to have: The Case of the Mysterious Date. Is the date in the upper-right of each news story (sample story) today's date, or the date the article was posted? I found out by changing the value of "content_id" in the URL's query string to a random lower number. I ended up on a story from March 2002, which listed the March date in the upper right corner. OK, now I know the date scheme -- but I doubt other, slightly less dorky, readers would go through that. A word or two, like "Posted:" or "Article written", would help. And maybe put the date inside the content area, instead of up there in margin land?
- On Holovaty.com, I try to avoid discussion of advertising and business models, but I can't help pointing out the "SERVICES" section of the site's left navigation. I find this an extremely good example of online advertising. When I visited the site, there were links to "FLIGHTS to India" and "MATRIMONIAL", both of which led to other sites. Seems to me this is a great way of giving users the advertising content they would actually be interested in seeeing -- without utilizing an annoying banner. (For you ethicists out there, I'll note the text is offset in a red color and is bolded. Other than that, there's no clear "advertising" label.)
- Intrigued by the about page's claim that the site was "[d]eveloped as per the international Internet access standards", I viewed the site in the text-only Lynx browser. Well, it looked downright lousy. Its front page (whoops, I mean "home page") was a mess of strange ALT attributes and nested tables. Mark Pilgrim would not be pleased.