Change is scary online, N&O redesign proves it

The Raleigh News & Observer recently launched a new redesigned Web site and its readers are sounding off.

I value the N&O as one of the top newspapers on the East coast and certainly North Carolina’s top paper. I view its Web site just as high and often visit it to gain ideas for my own Web site, TheTimesNews.com. The News and Observer constantly raises the bar for online news coverage and I respect the work of its staff greatly. But whoever redesigned the Web site might have dropped the ball.

I glanced over the user comments about the redesign and they are overwhelmingly negative. It appears the N&O has ticked off its users and may have lost a lot of customers. Most comments say that the site is poorly designed and they will be getting their news elsewhere.

NewsObserver_CoverThis really tells you how unimportant the credibility of the news organization is compared to the user experience. The user always wins and the N&O will need to make a change if this opinion of the new Web site continues. Have a look at some of the comments.

I haven’t had a lot of time to use the site, but the first thing I noticed when visiting the site was the color scheme, which is kind of ugly. The burnt orange and tan / brown colors are kind of dull. The old N&O site didn’t have much color, but was more visually appealing because it gave you more of a newspaper feel. I thought that without a lot of colors they were replicating a black and white newspaper feel. I have no idea what the thinking was behind the new color scheme.

One of the weakest parts is the navigation. The main navigation categories are standard, but what they fail to do is offer a sub navigation on the homepage. For example, if you were looking for ACC sports, you would have to click “Sports,” which takes you to the sports section, then you’d have to click “ACC Sports.”

It should have a drop down of sub navigation on the homepage to save the user a click. Nobody wants to click, click and click on a site. This is the same case for local news. You have to click onto another section to get to it.

It does have a nice feature on the site, but I think it will be unnoticed at first for users. If you scroll down below the main section of the homepage you will see subsections like “Local News” and “Sports.” The feature on the redesigned site lets you move some of these subsections in order of preference, customizing your own personal N&O homepage.

This is a great feature, but most probably don’t know how to use it or that it even exists. In the main section, I do like how the main story rotates automatically giving the user a few different looks at the site.

The more I use it, the more it grows on me, but I just don’t think the market is ready for it yet. I do think this is the future of online news and I applaud the N&O’s effort for jumping out front and testing it.

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1 comment so far

  1. Brook Corwin on

    I actually like the redesign, specifically for the page customization features you talk about at the end of this post. The old design always seemed cluttered to me and didn’t display up front the info I wanted to see.

    Long-time newspaper readers (used to one-way communication) aren’t going to like the change. But I think the web-savvy generation will eventually warm to the new design. People always complain when Facebook revamps its look, yet the site’s number of users keeps on growing.


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