Short thoughts on and

Written by Adrian Holovaty on September 26, 2002

I've taken on an ultra-cool contracting job doing some programming and database design, so intensive site reviews will be a bit less frequent. That said, I'll continue to point out good and bad things about various news sites I come across. For instance:

The Providence Phoenix in Providence, Rhode Island, has a relatively clean, usable site. I love the clear navigation choices on the left. They don't try to invent wacky section titles such as "Periscope". But what's up with the "Read reviews from" section at the bottom of the music page? One glance at that solid mass o' numbers makes my eyes hurt. I doubt many people use it. (And same goes for the gray table with randomly assorted links at the bottom of many pages sitewide -- as in this example.)

The Herald in Brownsville, Texas, has some nice, big photos on its home page and story pages. But most of those images (for instance, this one) include the photographer's credit as part of the image, breaking one of the cardinal rules of Web design: Avoid Using Images To Display Plain Text. When I skimmed over the code, they appeared to have ALT text -- but after a closer look I found that each photo had an identical id="A customer walks by casa de cambio stores on International Blvd near the Gateway Bridge Monday afternoon in Brownsville."

(Hey, whaddya know, photos on the individual story pages all have that exact same "description," too.)

A simple mishap like this is permissible on non-professional sites, such as personal sites, but it's entirely unacceptable on a site that aims to maintain journalistic standards. An incorrect ALT attribute is a typo; in this case, giving every photo the same "...Monday afternoon in Brownsville" text is comparable to giving each photo in a print newspaper the same caption.

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