Paper on the Internet

If you’re looking for a blogger who’s going to write about the latest bullshit ruse from the Republicans, and the latest round of submissive urination by the Democrats, I’m afraid I’m not your guy. I’ve had it with that shitshow fail parade. So, I’m looking for distractions, and here’s one.

Modern newspaper web design is so bad that it’s losing newspaper readers. But it doesn’t have to be that way — here’s a redesign of the New York Times (via) that I’d love to read. It’s worth noting that the Times is actually one of the better newspaper designs around. My local paper has suffered from years of bad design. Their online edition is finally somewhat usable after the nth redesign, but then they immediately went and ruined their mobile site.

Another point that nobody seems to mention is that newspapers ask that you register and harvest some personal information, yet they never seem to use it. I’ve never been pushed a targeted ad by my local newspaper – they’re a decade behind Google. Part of the reason that people are ad blind on the Internet is because the ads we see are almost totally irrelevant to who we are. The “best” ads, like the Google ads on this site, are at least slightly relevant to what we’ve been doing, or what the site’s about. Even the Times, which seems to be doing OK with its paywall, doesn’t seem to be able to push out a relevant ad despite the fact that I’m a “subscriber”.

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48 replies
  1. 1
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Not just newspaper Web design [cough] HuffPo [cough].

  2. 2
    jibeaux says:

    The ads I see have a woman molesting an enormous cucumber. I am a woman, and I do have cucumbers, but mostly I cut them up and put them in a little rice vinegar and sugar. I also stick them in a Claussen jar from which all the Claussens are long gone but the juice remains to slightly pickle my garden bounty. Somehow I don’t think that link is going to have more thrifty garden tips, though.

  3. 3
    Gin & Tonic says:

    FYWP, I tried to edit that comment to put the snarky [cough] around “HuffPo”, because first time around I used angle brackets, which WP ate.

  4. 4
    Dexter says:

    I always liked Guardian. The Telegraph is not bad either.

  5. 5
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Double FYWP, as now my first comment is gone and a meaningless second is in its place. When I write this, the first will probably return. Anyway, it’s not just old-line newspaper Web design that’s crappy — [cough] HuffPo [cough].

  6. 6
    General Stuck says:

    There is no real need to experience angst and agony over the “shitshow fail parade”, unless you just have to. And I don’t know how you get to dems “submissive urination” from the spectacle of watching the republicans coming apart at the seams. Sometimes, you have to submit a little, to get the prey into the trap.

    Wingnuts started this bullshit, hoping democrats would roll over and give them the core bennie structure of medicare or the ACA. If dems hadn’t played, then we would have wingnuts winning, by painting the dems as rank tax and spend liberals, who would likely have had to fold at the last minute.

    Instead we are getting a full on GOP civil war. I rather approve of that, though I agree we didn’t, and the economy didn’t need this circus with the freaking debt ceiling. But the GOP had that card to play, and they did. It will be no history mystery that it most likely will be a fail parade from the GOP. Dems didn’t give them what they wanted. Just a few flakes of fools gold for their trouble.

    But hey, whatever. It’s a free country.

  7. 7
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Maybe it’s something about the Brits, because The Economist’s site is quite good as well. The Beeb and Reuters, too, now that I think of it.

  8. 8
    Brandon says:

    What’s funny is that the website you linked to in support of your contention that poor web design is leading to fewer readers is itself so poorly designed that it was nearly incomprehensible to view on my mobile. And granted I am reviewing it on my G2X, but Miren is a damn fine browser for Android and getting to the point, I only saw snarky comments about poor formatting and design and I didn’t see any evidence to support your contention of declining readership as a result. I honestly could have missed something (as a result of the poor design of that guy’s site), but from what I could see I think you are making a stretch.

  9. 9
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    The WaPo’s recent redesign was a huge step backwards from their previous, shitty, design.

    And they wonder why I’ll never give them a dime.

  10. 10
    Jewish Steel says:

    This app is very helpful when trying to get though long articles on the internet:

    http://readable.tastefulwords.com/

  11. 11
    PurpleGirl says:

    Almost any animated ad or instantly moving picture sets off a problem I have. Therefore I use a Flash blocker and Adblocker. Don’t go telling me that the ads support a site — I know this. But animation and pictures with motion really bother my brain. Blocking them is a matter of survival. Either I don’t view the crap or I’m not reading a site. If I want to see an ad I can always click on the Flash “f” and watch.

  12. 12
    wrb says:

    The non-crazy net needs a news source as easy to scan as Drudge.

    For a long time I relied on them for headlines, disregarding the crazy ones, just because it was so much cleaner and easy to absorb that the alternatives.

  13. 13
    NonyNony says:

    Wait – the Times still has a paywall?

    How have I not hit the paywall limit yet? I’ve been reading the Times more than usual.

    Does running NoScript in Firefox screw with the Times paywall counts? Or do visits to Krugman’s blog not count for the paywall limit?

  14. 14
    cleek says:

    i rather like the current NYT design. it lets you do that thing you used to do with newspapers: skim a little bit of a lot of things without turning the page (or the digital equivalent: clicking a link).

    i don’t like the Fark/bogus search site/headlines-only redesign. it looks thin and makes me anticipate a lot of clicking to see anything.

  15. 15
    The Moar You Know says:

    I’m a huge fan of Kortney’s ad, so something is being done right with the ads here.

  16. 16

    Meh. The NYT front page web design is like shooting fish in a barrel design-wise. The solution he offers is an RSS feed with a few baubles. Works great on the mobile side. Not so sure it’s that much of an upgrade for a full web browsing experience.

    The ultimate problem is that there is just too much diverse information to put on one page. They can’t do it in a “paper” paper, and they try to do it on the web site.

  17. 17
    kdaug says:

    You know what site has a pretty fucking good mobile presence?

    BJ. You’re soaking in it.

    Srsly. On Droid 2.2, anyway, it auto-orientates correctly, loses the banners, and is as navigable as any I’ve seen.

    No two-finger zoom crap, it’s just the text. Turn the phone sideways, and it’s almost like reading it on your desktop. (Except that bullshit “typing on a screen” crap.)

  18. 18
    wrb says:

    @jibeaux:

    “Somehow I don’t think that link is going to have more thrifty garden tips, though.”

    Pretty close, actually. It is a shocking example of of the most scurrilous sort of deceptive advertising.

  19. 19
    jibeaux says:

    I also get a plug for some sort of vanity press book about how “Liberalism Destroys Peoples And Nations”. It was endorsed by a “radio show host.” I bet a lot of us have totally ordered that.

  20. 20
    PanAmerican says:

    It’s not just old line print. The Gawker redesign – I mean… WTF?

  21. 21
    cleek says:

    @kdaug:

    You know what site has a pretty fucking good mobile presence? BJ

    all hail the WordPress Mobile Pack. my shitty blog uses it too. works great.

    ThankYWP.

  22. 22
    WereBear says:

    My complaint about the BJ mobile site is that it’s missing the links that designate the comment. So I can’t click on that to refresh from where I left off; I have to refresh from the post title and then scroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooll like my life depended upon it to get back where I was.

    The reply button complaint is implied.

  23. 23
    dpCap says:

    this site has ads? :-P

  24. 24
    The Moar You Know says:

    kdaug: damn right. For all that I might bitch about the reply button, Balloon Juice on Android 2.2 is one of the best mobile sites, period.

  25. 25
    tomvox1 says:

    “Paper on the Internet”–is this a play on TV on the Radio? If so, I like!

  26. 26
    Rome Again says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t see how having to suffer through ads asking for donations from that racist West guy and loony toons Bachmann are relevant to this site at all. I only enjoy the fact that just about nobody here will make use of them.

  27. 27
    Steeplejack says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Angle brackets are what HTML uses to demarcate commands, so it tries to interpret any text between them as a command. I don’t think there is an HTML “cough” command. There’s your problem right there.

  28. 28
    Mike P says:

    If you use the NY Times app in Google Chrome, you can customize the look a bit more to get it almost looking like some of the mock ups on that other page. I find using the app improves the reading experience significantly.

  29. 29
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I know that. I plead insufficient caffeine and throw myself at the mercy of the court.

  30. 30
    Constance says:

    Visits to Krugman’s blog count; that’s why I pay for the digital edition of the Times. Krugman’s blog brought me to Balloon Juice so I count it money well spent.

  31. 31
    kdaug says:

    @Mike P:

    If you use the NY Times app in Google Chrome

    Bah. Apps are an unnecessary waste of memory – design your site to autodetect and load your content version to the appropriate device

  32. 32
    jkm says:

    Targeted marketing seems to be a tough nut to crack. I worked for a large retailer with a very good customer email list that tied to their purchases. We sent out over 200 targeted emails each week and they still missed the mark for most customers as to really targeting the email to something they would like ot buy. There is too much data and know one seems to be doing a proper job of segementing it in ways that are truly meaningful for customers. First to do it wins a big prize.

  33. 33
    Steeplejack says:

    @Brandon:

    I, too, saw some problems with that site, even with a regular browser (Firefox) on my computer. The page comes up “too big” for my screen resolution (1024 x 768). There’s no reason for that, as it’s all white space on the sides, except for the rightmost bit of his menu at the top. But I get the annoying horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the screen. So what happened to his “one source fits all” philosophy?

    And at the bottom of the page his text niblets overflow (to the right) the background gray rectangle on which he placed them. Plus wasn’t someone ranting on here just in the last day or so about gray text on a different-colored gray background? Shudder.

    I checked one of his other pages, the “Bike Blog,” and the body text was incredibly small. So small that I am starting to wonder if there is something wrong with my Firefox settings. I know I can bump up the text size with Zoom, but his default text size is really that small? Maybe it’s an artifact of not designing for my probably antiquated 1024 x 768 screen resolution. But, again, what happened to the idea of the page code fitting all displays?

    None of this is to say that the New York Times Web site doesn’t suck and couldn’t do with a makeover.

  34. 34
    Dennis SGMM says:

    In fairness to web designers everywhere the original design rarely makes it to the internet. A company hires a professional designer because its people know little to nothing about web design. The designer comes up with something that may very well be clean, attractive and easily navigable. That design is then presented to the same people who know nothing about web design for their approval and then the real fun starts:

    “I don’t like it.”
    “What is it you don’t like?”
    “I don’t know; I just don’t like it. Maybe it’s the colors or something”

    or:

    “Why isn’t X, or Y or Z bigger? I want X bigger and Y to really stand out and Z has to go to the top of the page.”

    And so forth.

  35. 35
    cleek says:

    @kdaug:
    even worse apps are a way to trap the user into not leaving your site.

  36. 36
    Jonas says:

    Ugh. It’s silly that the internet is so taken with the Rutledge redesign. I expect it to be taken up by all the newspaper that can afford to move to a subscription-only model online… which is no one.

    Good design solves real world problems. The Rutledge redesign is beautiful, but good only for fantasyland.

  37. 37
    scav says:

    @Dennis SGMM: True, only don’t forget those specific PR managers insisting that there be more visible ads and every manager in the building insisting upon front-page space.

  38. 38
    kdaug says:

    @cleek: There’s a reason I shut my phone OFF when I charge it.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Gromit says:

    Am I the only person here who hates mobile sites? Even setting aside the ones that redirect you to the main mobile page instead of the article whose link you were following, they generally are dumbed down to within an inch of their lives. One of the things that made The iPhone such a phenomenon was Mobile Safari’s ability to deftly navigate standard web pages — nytimes.com was the site used specifically to demo it’s capabilities — and now I find some sites redirecting me to their godawful, feature-limited Blackberry-optimized sites.

  41. 41
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @scav: @arguingwithsignposts:

    Oh,yes! The classic;
    “I don’t understand why you can’t have all of the changes done by tomorrow. All you have to do is click on some stuff – right?”

  42. 42
    Dennis Doubleday says:

    He cheats in his NYT redesign by not including ads. C’mon people, you gotta let them have SOME kind of business model, or the business goes away. No paywall AND no ads would mean NO CONTENT FOR YOU.

  43. 43
    jwb says:

    Constance: Visits to Krugman’s main blog page, which has all the text of the recent posts but not the comments, do not count toward the allotment. You can, however, walk through the paywall using the NoScript extension, since the paywall is enforced through javascript. Disabling script also disables the comments, however. You can also use NYClean to strip the javascript.

  44. 44
    scav says:

    Well, as it happens, there is the newly rolled out Comment is Free section at The Guardian today. Welcome here and straight to the olayground here.

  45. 45
    DMcK says:

    He cheats in his NYT redesign by not including ads. C’mon people, you gotta let them have SOME kind of business model, or the business goes away. No paywall AND no ads would mean NO CONTENT FOR YOU.

    Well, he says the ads would be buried in the sections, and advocates a subscription-only model for hard news. But yes, his entire premise is based on the absurd idea that their ad sales team and clients would ever allow that to happen. Add the fact that EVERY department fights like cats & dogs to shoehorn their presence in the web content as up-front as possible and the result will inevitably be hopeless clutter. It’s actually to their credit that an organization as bloated as the Times has as clean a design as they do, under the circumstances.

  46. 46
    different church-lady says:

    The “best” ads, like the Google ads on this site, are at least slightly relevant to what we’ve been doing, or what the site’s about completely creepy in a “plate of shrimp” sort of way in that they pick off certain keywords in the raw text that result in ads that almost, but not quite, have something to do with the actual subject you’re reading about.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    Another point that nobody seems to mention is that newspapers ask that you register and harvest some personal information, yet they never seem to use it. I’ve never been pushed a targeted ad by my local newspaper – they’re a decade behind Google.

    I’ve always declined offers to be sent ads and crap when I register for news sites. Still used to get stuff on occasion that was related to a Chicago Tribune subscription.

  48. 48

    […] Offended is what they do and why they do it and, increasingly, it is who they are.* * * * * * * * *Mistermix at Balloon Juice points us to Andy Rutledge’s awesome tear-down and re-build of the way newspaper website are […]

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  1. […] Offended is what they do and why they do it and, increasingly, it is who they are.* * * * * * * * *Mistermix at Balloon Juice points us to Andy Rutledge’s awesome tear-down and re-build of the way newspaper website are […]

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