I had to analyse a website for my Web communication unit. Here is an edited version of my essay on the Times Online.
It is the first site to appear using a search engine. The name of the site stems from the associated newspaper so there is little confusion in how to spell the website address.
The homepage displays the latest news, which is user friendly as one is completely up to date. However it is crowded and very long. It would be more effective if the news was not split up into sections; instead the user can just navigate to each category to look in more depth.
The Navigation is well structured and is easy to use. The search box, makes navigation more personal and less time consuming. However there are so many options that it could be over whelming. Jakob Nielsen (1993) states less is more, because having many options causes a burden for the user, thus fewer options equal better usability.
The RHN is superb at making the site sticky. It features “most read” “most commented” and “most curious”, which could make people stay on the site for longer than they intended.
TimesOnline colour’s and font’s are simple and clear, which is important to set the site’s tone (Foust 2005). Some sub headings are not clear or in logical order. If these were bigger and bolder they would not get lost within text.
Content and Multimedia
The content of the website is varied with a wide range of stories and columnists.
The galleries pop up in a new window, which is useful as one can still view the site. However the photo galleries were slow to download which could lead to users becoming disengaged.
TimesOnline’s podcasts and RSS feeds are divided into different categories. This makes it easy to find your interests and makes the site more personal.
The site has a strong range of interactivity. It offers ‘live discussion forums’ which can keep the user on the site and build up an online community.
To comment the user has to be a member, which is a brilliant way of creating loyalty. Every story allows the user to comment, email, print, add to favourites and gives 236 options of ‘sharing’ including Twitter and Facebook. This is the ultimate way to make a user feel involved and participate with the story.
There is no signposting for this on the site. If there were a section dedicated to UGC it could increase the online community and make users more dedicated to the site. There should be a section clearly signposted for readers to send any relevant newsworthy multimedia to.
To conclude there are some areas that could improve usability but overall the site does function well, all the links work, and the pages are easy to use. TimesOnline uses a superb range of multimedia and the interactivity is very current. Although it does not incorporate a huge amount UGC this may change when big news stories occur or competitive journalism sites expand their UGC.
Foust, J, C. 2005. Online Journalism Principles and Practices of News for the Web. 2nd edition. Holcombe Hathaway. USA
Nielsen, J. 1993. Usability Engineering, Academic Press. USA.