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Hypergene MediaBlog » Site Review: Wired News redesign

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Friday, 11 Oct 2002

Site Review: Wired News redesign

Wired NewsToday 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:

  • Adoption of standards: The presentation layer uses extensible hypertext markup language XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). By doing this, “Wired News is now faster to load and can be read by practically every version of every Web browser. It can be displayed on a wider range of browser platforms, including mobile phones, PDAs and televisions. It’s more accessible to the visually impaired, and may be updated on any or all of its thousands of pages quickly, with a simple list of commands.” Using CSS and XHTML they are able to provide nice functionality like variable text size - see example.

    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. :-(

  • Reporter feedback: Enable your readers to contact reporters, by providing an email address or web-based email form. Wired News has a nice deployement of this - example.

    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,,, and — do not provide e-mail links to their staffs. The New York Times policy discourages its reporters from answering reader e-mail. Others — including,,, — 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."

  • Create relationships between stories: Despite the obvious advantage to readership, many news sites still do not have the technology or desire to connect related stories together. Wired’s deployment of this is variable, probably due to the nature of the content markup in the content managment system - different sources may be using NewsML, NITF or something proprietary. Wired News original stories get one approach, while Reuter’s and AP wire stories get different approaches. Regardless, the value to reader who want to know more about a given story or subject is apparent. See examples.
  • Connect to the Network: Wired understands that it’s not the only place people get news online. A long-standing feature of their front page “Elsewhere on the web” thankfully remains intact. It’s simply a list of five links to stories on other sites that their readers might find useful. See example.

    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.

Posted on Oct 11, 2002 | 3:02 pm EST
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