This morning the big switchover to the new edition of CNN.com began. I’m sure the CNN crew are working hard still to bring the last set of pages up to the new design (health, tech and travel are a few still in the legacy version at point of writing). But this post isn’t about what hasn’t been done; it’s about what CNN has done with its web presence.
Design and Content
The design is fairly consistent with probably CNN’s largest competitor the BBC—three columns, universal large banner and navigation bar. Content however changes the game. BBC’s homepage has three columns of news, while CNN has decided to have one column of news, then one column (notably the largest and middle) dedicated to video content. Now obviously this is because of CNN’s dedication to video content as a supplement to news, but to me this just seems wrong. The real news stories seem marginalized. Dimensionally speaking, the news story listings make up around 5% of the total page area (above the fold). This just seems like a bizarrely small area for a news website. Further stories are broken down into categories below the fold. We’ll have to see how this works for them, one article I read recently says that ‘the fold’ has no bearing on today’s internet user (http://www.cxpartners.co.uk/thoughts/the_myth_of_the_page_fold_evidence_from_user_testing.htm).
The actual news pages look fairly beautiful. I’ve always been a fan of BBC’s pages which are headed by a large image or video. CNN takes this to the next level for their best content, increasing the size of the header. Whereas in the legacy version, had videos, pictures and article on separate pages, this brings everything together really nicely.
New to this revision of CNN.com is the NewsPulse section (http://newspulse.cnn.com/). At first glance this looks like a fairly easy to use section. The top stories are listed, and there are more options to filter the stories. It’s a much more interactive feature than the BBC’s top stories. One note on UI, you can click on one headline to expand it, but you first have to close that headline before you can open another. The details are nice, but not at the cost of two clicks. (this has since been fixed--guess i shouldn't do a review while its still going live).
Thank you for finally integrating this into the CNN.com design. That blue for the legacy version was off-putting and caused some sort of cataclysm of brand in my mind. Also that’s a really nice flash interface on the homepage. I’ve never really found a point for browsing the iReport site, and this probably wont change, but it’s cool when iReports turn up the main news.
Maybe they had this before, maybe they didn’t. Either way I signed up today to one minor nuisance: Usernames are limited to 12 characters. Anyone who knows me knows I use one username everywhere; the problem is it is 13 characters long.
The design looks good, the news pages look good, and it seems friendly, but I’m still bugged by how small an area the latest headlines takes up—this should not be a secondary section on a NEWS site.