News consumers are spoilt for choice

Consider: how many news websites do you use? Do you use different news websites for different types of news, such as political, sport and entertainment? Well, you could! There is that many options.

So how do you know which one is right for you?

To know that, you have to think about …

  • Are you more interested in Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, or who is likely to be the next evictee from the Big Brother house?
  • What is more important to you: accessibility and usability, or interesting design?
  • How much advertising is too much?
  • Do you need to get your news from a reputable source?

In The Best Designed News Sites, an article on Poynter Institute, Anne Van Wagner recognises that that the best websites reflect the identity of their brand, have a balanced and functioning contents page, are aesthetically pleasing, and are easy to read and navigate.

I have compared a few of your possible options for news websites below.

NineMSN

The old reliable. NineMSN has been my internet homepage for as long as I can remember. This may be because I actually have no clue how to change the homepage, but in truth it would be pretty easy to Google “How to change your internet homepage” and follow the instructions … I’ve just never bothered, because NineMSN does everything that I want my homepage to do.

NineMSN informs, entertains and has a link to both Hotmail and Facebook. What more could you want?!

But, in all seriousness, NineMSN has (in my opinion) created a pretty good news website. The latest headlines are right in the centre, in slightly larger font so that even those unfamiliar with the site have no trouble locating them. Down the left are links to more ‘entertainment’ and ‘lifestyle’ type articles, which is a nice change. On the right hand side is the weather, and if you scroll down you will even get the TV Guide.

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I do, however, have a few issues with the layout of the website. There is an awful lot of linking and advertising, which can make it difficult to tell what is news and what is not. I would say that, in an attempt to give us what they think we want (and need), they have gone a tad overboard. Why is an ‘Editor’s Pick’ necessary on the home page, as well as a long line of links from other parts of the NineMSN network? It’s difficult to discern which links will take you to news articles on NineMSN, and which will lead you off to another website completely.

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Another frustrating factor is the amount of advertising, polls and questionnaires. The advertisements can sometimes look like news stories, leading to much confusion. And I, personally, have never answered any of these polls or questionaires, however I do appreciate that NineMSN is trying to engage viewers in the news.

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All in all, I don’t think I’ll be changing my homepage from NineMSN any time soon. I can live with the advertisements, because I am familiar with the site and know whereabouts on the page the articles that hold my interest will be. However, the many links to entertainment and lifestyle websites may frustrate some.

ABC News

From first glance, it is obvious that the ABC News website is less geared more towards current affairs than entertainment-style news.

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ABC News has done a wonderful job of telling the audience what is most important; the breaking news is easy to spot, with a picture and large font drawing attention to the’Black Parody’ article. ‘Bulldogs v Storm’, ‘March for Jill’ and ‘Aussie rescued’, each have their own thumbnail picture, demonstrating that they are not the headliner, but still important stories. The less important, or older in time, news is then succinctly set out by headline in hyperlinked dot-points below. In comparison, I think this is one area NineMSN could definitely improve on, as their clutter of links is quite confusing.

I especially love ABC News’ function that allows you to read the latest news from a selected state. It seems that ABC News provides links to news consumers might be interested in, whereas NineMSN tries to squeeze it all on their start page.

Importantly, there is distinctly less advertising on this website than NineMSN. Speaking as a news consumer myself, advertisements (especially the kind that pop up and play a video, obscuring your view of an article) are frustrating and never relevant to me. If I was to base me opinion on what is the best News website purely based on the amount of advertisements, ABC News would win, hands down.

ABC News has also created a useful list of links to other sites. In my opinion, links like this should be legible and clear as to where they will lead you. ABC has done both.

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SBS

The first thing I notice about SBS’ website, is the vast amount of white space. If it weren’t for my studies in Layout and Design at QUT, I would probably look at this website and think, “Wow, it’s pretty. I don’t know why, but it is.” But I know better now.

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White space (the space between elements on the page) helps different features to stand out, or separates them from other features on the page. There is white space along the wedges of a fixed width layout, in the margins and padding around pictures and text, between lines of text, and letters in words. SBS’ use of white space has created a legible website that conveys a sense of simplicity and elegance.

SBS has, like ABC News, worked out how to guide news consumers through their website. The main story, ‘Jones apologies to PM’ is easy to spot with a large picture, and shows a small excerpt from the article. Other important news stories are featured to the right, with one thumbnail picture and a number of hyperlinks.

Further down the page, SBS has included Sport, Television, Food, Film and Shop sub-headings, which provide order to what would otherwise be a mish-mash of information and links. Through this layout, it is easy to find an article that would be of interest to you.

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I am also a fan of the bottom of the page, where SBS has provided links to other areas of their website. Although both NineMSN and ABC News also do this, SBS’ version is simplistic, which is what you want when you’re trying to find information quickly. This version also includes links to various entertainment articles and included searches ABC News does not.

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Side Note: SBS changes the colour palette of their site every day, and finds a way to incorporate the main colour into headers, links and text boxes. In my opinion, it makes the site looks more professional.

Which one do you prefe

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