Today marks the launch of the latest iteration of Wired News. In the marketing puff piece that accompanies the launch, we’re told that this redesign will help “lift the Web out of the Dark Ages.” Hyperbole aside, Wired does many things well in this new design. Here’s a few components of the redesign that we suggest news sites consider:
Not only does adherence to web standards make you a good Internet citizen, it can enhance the experience through better interaction and usability. Standards guru Jeffrey Zeldman points out that the standards compliance on the new Wired falls apart with the advertising it serves, due to “invalid methods and improper URL handling. When that content is added to Wired’s pages, the site stops validating. Add poop to your soup and it’s no longer a healthy meal.”
Adrian Holovaty has some good thoughts about why news sites aren’t using XHTML and CSS. From our experience at various news outlets, he’s on the money.
Note: Though we had a miserable experience surfing this site on our Sidekick, we’re sure that the kinks of their deployment will be worked out shortly. Nothing works perfectly on launch day. :-(
Too bad there is no way for Wired readers to leave their comments on a story. It will be nice when that functionality becomes standard. Providing reporter’s contact info sounds amazingly obvious to those outside the news business, but in some newsrooms, reporters don’t even have an email address or email access. Also, some news companies discourage reporters from answering email. Just read this paragraph from the Online News Association 2001 Credibility Report:
“Despite the Web’s capacity to provide direct interaction between readers and journalists, many online news organizations — including NYTimes.com, USAToday.com, CNN.com, MSNBC.com and WashingtonPost.com — do not provide e-mail links to their staffs. The New York Times policy discourages its reporters from answering reader e-mail. Others — including Salon.com, SeattleTimes.com, ChicagoTribune.com, CNet.com — do provide direct links from their stories to their reporters’ e-mails; they say it’s a way of connecting the writers with the communities they cover, improving their understandings and holding them more accountable."
Seemingly simple concepts like this don’t fly in many mainstream news organizations because that practice would be pushing “eyeballs away from advertisers”. True, but good editing of link packages like this will keep your readers coming back for more.
From a graphic design perspective, Wired News looks pretty good. In general, it’s clean and readable. However, we did want to nitpick one ad placement method on their site that kills readability. See example. The Ad and the Story Tools section create this nasty hour-glass shape of copy that readers must navigate. As ads have gotten bigger and louder, flashing and animating for attention, readbility is reducing markedly. It just shows that “printer-friendly” pages are good for more than just printers. They’re easier to read than just about any standard “story” template page.
With all due respect, your site does not validate. It’s mostly due to bad character encoding, which is excusable, but there are some tag nesting errors as well.
It’s true, as Zeldman said today, that this happens in the real world, but it’s always good to practice what you preach.
Touche Adrian - you’re absolutely right. We just launched the blog this week, and have tried our best to get the XHTML and CSS in our templates valid. Perhaps we launched too soon.… I think we’ve got a bit more to learn about how our CMS works. It seems that our templates are valid, but our data entry is not.
I seriously need help with XHTML coding.
i created a text field n “wrapped” the text inside the field but this is not a “valid” attribute. so im wondering how you get the “wrap” attribute to be valid.