Tech
comments 10

And the winner is…

Kiruba posted recently (no permalink available) about how the rediff.com home page has started to look rather shabby. Now, that I’ve quit, I guess I can have a more objective look at it.

The site, and especially the home page, has gone through several design changes, some pretty good. Some, not quite. It seems to be in the latter phase right now. Of course, there are commercial reasons why they have those ugly gray banner ads in the middle of the page.

And floating banner ads that irritatingly appear just when you are about to click on a headline. But despite all this, I am sure there is a more aesthetic solution, considering all news sites feature these kind of ads to varying degrees. Right now, the once familiar and pleasant home page is definitely beginning to look worse for wear. Having worked with the news team, however, I have to say they do an amazing job (given the constraints and resources).

I used to hate the Indiatimes.com page too because it was so cluttered and unappealing in the aesthetic sense. It looks a little better now. I think they’ve cleaned up the place a little. But it’s still got a way to go. The extremely irritating ‘in-your-face’ photograph, makes me feel I’ve stumbled upon the Mid-Day mate page instead. I hardly visit the site.

The Hindustan Times page looks much better in comparison. The use of blue and grey (bands), red (borders), blue and black (font colours) is restrained and looks quite neat against the white background. The site has a lot of links and sections packing a lot into the home page, but manages to come out better looking than the rest of the pack.

The column-style layout, traditionally used in magazines and newspapers, is not the preferred format online, but the Express India look is quite distinctive. (Another site that uses this column format rather nicely on its home page is Salon.com). The catch is the page weight. It takes extremely long to open the page, especially if you’re surfing from a café or a dial-up at home.

Mid-Day is strictly okay. I rarely go there. But it’s good for city related information that I need once in a while. But then we’re not really talking about content here. That would be an entirely different subject.

Which would you vote as the best looking Indian news site?

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10 Comments

  1. I would seriously go for HT. ToI is more like a tabloid paper, all ad, no content. Indian Express would give HT a run for it’s money though.

  2. Why, why, why do these news sites have to have anumated banner ads all over they front page!? timesofindia.com has about 6-8 animated buttons on the front page. It is irritating, and in my opinion it reduces the quality of the website.

    The problem with rediff is again too many ads! Be it the rediff mobile ads, Free bag with shoes, or other goodies (kurtas, jeans etc etc). The news gets about 1/4 of the width of the screen.

    Compare this with sites like newyorktimes.com, chicagotribune.com, cnn.com… sure there are ads. Sometimes even more ads than on most indian sites. But these are placed in such a way that they dont come in the way of people trying to read the news. And there are very few blinking, dancing and such crazy ads.

    I am yet to find any good indian news site that presents news in a user-friendly manner. hindustantimes.com comes close. But there is hardly any other that does not have more ads on the front page than useful information.

  3. Ankit: I think they are still trying to find that right balance between ads and news content and the way to present the site. Foreign sites seem to have gotten a better hang of it, like you pointed out. Though a few have also resorted to the floating ads that pop up suddenly. Most annoying. I would never ever click on such an ad!

  4. A good rule of thumb is to see what kind of online operation you are looking at.

    Rediff is strictly an online company, while others like Express or HT are your regular companines with an online presence, so when it comes to budgeting these entities, the pinch is much greater on pure click ventures like Rediff.

    I think a very simple example will explain better what I am trying to say. Compared to the huge infrastructure that Indian Express has to maintain to keep their print edition running, the paltry lakhs that go into keeping the online up is nothing, so they can afford to keep less intrusive ads.

    The exception of course is Indiatimes, but that is company driven purely by profit and anything that will give you that additional quid will always be given the go, intrusive? who gives a damn about that.

  5. My personal fav is The Tribune. It’s got everything working for it. First, it’s lightening fast. Faster than even Rediff. Then, there are no screaming ads, infact there are just two above the fold [in 1024*768]. Both are subdued and only one is an animation, a slow one at that.

    Screen space is wisely divided into the main story of the day plus links to two other main stories in the centre and regional links in left navigation [given that it’s popular in many North Indian States]. The whole page clearly communicates what’s to be found where. Very simple and very effective.

    It was a actually a pleasent surprise when I first visited it a few months ago, coming from a paper that’s far less known beyond North India.

    HT’s homepage is still way too bloated [at over 350kb, I’d say it is!] but it has improved from about an year ago when the page was a nightmare of animations and pop-ups. The latter have disappeared but those annoying animations are still there.

    Internationally, I like the innovative way in which International Herald Tribune presents its stories. BBC’s homepage is a delight to look at, News.com’s has an impressive signature visual style and I love NY Times’ what I’d call “almost transparent” interface – in the background when you’re reading stories but always there when you need to go someplace. The way it should be.

    Btw, I did a design critique of News.com’s “save story” widget on my blog about couple of months ago. It’s an interesting read.

  6. Codey: You’re right about the commercial considerations, but I still feel it is possible to come up with a better design. Regardless of whether you have an online/offline model or a solely online model.

    Manu: The Tribune has quite a decent look. The page runs a little too long perhaps. But internationally, news sites do seem to have fared better. Did go through your News.com review.

  7. Thanks for stopping by Anita.

    And yes, I agree completely that “commercial considerations” are no excuse for poor design. You can have a useful, usable design and still make money… just that it’s not easy. Takes a lot of thought and innovation for coming up with such solutions.

  8. Manu: I never said it was an excuse.

    What I should have said was that it is not often in the hands of the UI person or the designer to make the final call on what goes on the page.

    You can get a clearer idea of how things are this way if you ask Vikram (I saw his name on the list of contributors to Indiachi) why something like that is non-existent in a place like Indiatimes, even when you have seperate pointperson to take care of UI issues.

    Anita: Yup, it is possible, but the tough thing is to actually pull it off, especially when you do not have a free hand. And yes, your business model does matter a lot, take my word for it, it is much easier to effect a positive design change at Indian Express.

    My personal fav is: CSM

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