CNN website. What’s so good about it?

windows_on_monitor (part 3 of 5)

Briefly: CNN’s website was found to be the #2 online news website in December 2007. (read more)


What’s Enjoyable?

  • CNN’s presentation of the full news articles can be found within a very friendly, clean, USEFUL, and easy to read and use interface. This interface…
    • Clearly indicates when the article was last updated,
    • Provides enhanced accessibility via the placement of on-page buttons for controlling the text size,
    • For some articles, can be found to also contain nifty, dynamic, tab-like elements for the exploring of more related information about the current topic without having to navigate elsewhere, and
    • Presents a bulleted list of story highlights!
  • The prominent placement of the news video component is definitely appreciated by those visitors that are looking to either quickly browse through the latest full-motion news updates or dive into the video aspects of the site.
  • The page header allows for (1) the easy navigation of the various sections of the CNN news product, as well as clear identification of the current section, and (2) identification of the latest ‘hot topic.’ With many of the other top online news experiences with such clumsy navigation interfaces, CNN deserves the positive recognition for its solid implementation.

What’s Disappointing or Unsatisfying?

  • Unlike many other news sites, CNN provides very little in the way of customization, and no customization of the determination of sections to present, nor their display sequence (a fairly common feature).
  • The non-Home sections of the website exhibit inconsistent layouts and poor use of whitespace. Often the whitespace presentation results in the sense, or feeling, that something is missing or broken on the page.
  • The composition of text on the page can, at times, seem disjointed or incomplete. A simple example can be seen on the homepage in awkward wrapping of the article’s age, as well as in the example below…

    The third of the top 3 news sites, MSNBC, will be the focus of my next blog update.

    Until then, think about & share…

    Which website experience do you enjoy more Yahoo News or CNN? Why?

    Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the User eXperience within the world of news websites as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

    More Information


    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy


    Yahoo News. #1 Online News Site.

    windows_on_monitor(part 2 of 5)

    Website: Yahoo! News
    Briefly: Yahoo News was found to be the #1 online news website in December 2007. (read more)


    What’s Enjoyable?

    • The homepage is loaded with dynamic elements that make it easy to get MORE information into the initial page and reveal even MORE information QUICKLY without having to load more pages.



    • What content is included or excluded, as well as the order of the different types of content, can customized to the user’s preferences.



    • On most pages a there exists a feature that allows for quick (no re-loading or loading of new pages), dynamic toggling between ‘headlines only’, ‘include summaries’, and ‘ include photos’ empowers the user with the ability to quickly skim information and control how many details the individual wants to see.
    p03_yahoo_toggle_headlines p03_yahoo_toggle_photos p03_yahoo_toggle_summaries

    What’s Disappointing or Unsatisfying?

    • The style of the site feels outdated and the layout tends to evoke feelings of information overload.
    • It is great that the pages can be customized, but the ability to customize and the knowledge of what one can actually customize are buried and extremely easy to miss.
    • Near the top of the pages is a ‘more stories’ widget that is both unnecessarily animated and presented in style mismatched with Yahoo News’ overall look-and-feel.

    Tune in for my next posting, where I will be turning my attention to the #2 news site: CNN.

    Until then, think about & share…

    What parts of the Yahoo News website experience do you love (or hate)?

    Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the User eXperience within the world of news websites as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

    More Information


    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy

    The News is Improving

    windows_on_monitor(part 1 of 5) Yahoo News, CNN, MSNBC. Each online news organization presents a different spin on the visual and interactive presentation of the news.
    00_yahoo_homepage 00_cnn_homepage 00_msnbc_homepage

    Most everyone has their favorite resource for getting news online. Perhaps it is the content, or the extension of the TV experience with which you are most comfortable, that pulls you in the direction of one particular news site over another. But, what about from the perspective of each online news product’s User eXperience?

    As of December 2007, the top 3 news sites are: Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC.

    The Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC websites provide their respective users with different online news experience advantages and disadvantages.

    Over the next few weeks, I will explore, discuss, and compare the top 3 online news sites, Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC, and share with you which, among these three, I find to be the champion of User eXperience in online news.

    Next, I will be looking at the first of the top 3 news sites, Yahoo News.

    Until then, think about & share…

    What online news experience do you most enjoy?

    Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the User eXperience within the world of news websites as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

    More Information


    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy

    Hulu! Where are you?

    Hulu Logo For most people, the shared sentiment with respect to Hulu takes on one or more of the forms…

    “Ohhhhh… I sooooo want to get in!”
    Please let me in.”
    “Why won’t Hulu let me be cool, too?”

    … or …

    “Hulu? Whatever! I use Fancast (GoFish, Veoh, MeeVee, Imeem or some other inclusive web product).”

    The “whatever” sentiment is definitely rising among the (currently) prospective users of Hulu. BTW, Fancast et. al. are nowhere in the same league of the overall product experience presented by Hulu.

    What is hulu?

    It lets you watch TV shows from NBC, FOX, Sony, SciFi, and many more television channels, online, within your web browser. The shows, both from recent times to times long past (e.g. Mary Tyler Moore) are available in full length and small clips, in standard and high definition formats, and can be embedded in other websites.

    Hulu is currently in private beta.

    Super-dooper, Wicked-cool, Private Beta

    Private betas can be very valuable for a new product release; even more so for the start-up company, cycling and refining and bringing to life their product within a small, controlled group of people – facilitating feedback, activity, and iteration. The private beta allows for the more careful selection of people that you (the startup) feel will best help prepare the start-up’s product for its introduction to the “real-world.”

    Private betas are also a great marketing tool to drive up demand. Private betas help make them (the future customers) want to get in. Even if these future customers don’t need it, they will want it – and will also help make the larger public feel that organic desire. For many start-ups this can be, and is, useful, when executed well, to promote the viral word-of-mouth knowledge about the product; maybe even allowing the company to spend its limited funds on things like employees and further development.

    But, there is a point where the concept and utility of a private beta gets “silly,” when the period for the private beta exceeds its value-added. When, within the private beta, there exists a thoroughly refined and well defined web product, that from all practical appearances is a complete production-ready consumer product. I say, “Hulu, you have already passed that (‘silly’) point. Open up!”

    Should Hulu make the most of the buzz they are getting? Driving up the demand? Yep. And it has been done very well. Private betas have tremendous value in the creation of both product and buzz – and in a cost effective manner. However, I am already observing, upon numerous accounts, that many people on the “outside” are already losing interest. People (the potential Hulu consumers) move on. People join other “elite clubs.” People have fun with people and products that will accept them (for who they are).

    It’s not sour grapes that I am expressing towards Hulu — I am one of the lucky ones, “the elite.” But, I log in, I use Hulu. I enjoy using the ready for primetime, Hulu. The product and its UX are very well refined, simple, and enjoyable. The product is visibly more than ready and the value-add of the private beta is on the decline.

    Hulu. It’s Quite Enjoyable.

    There are some points of interface discomfort, but, on the whole, Hulu presents a very clean and enjoyable online experience.

    Mostly lovely

    • The overall experience: clean, simple, sleek, enjoyable.
    • Flash player integrates a great deal of extra functionality in a non-obtrusive, intuitive, and sleek package.
    • The homepage’s grid layout of popular episodes, clips and the “recently added” is a nice way to see what else is out there – find new entertainment in which I may be interested. It also helps set the initial tone for the site — simple, clean, easy to use.

    Little Discomfort

    • Episode selection baffles me. There are many ways to select the episodes. But, the primary way of episode selection (clearly what the interfaces are driving me to use) doesn’t offer to list the episodes in CHRONOLOGICAL order! (for some shows it works out OK)
    • The chronological listing of episodes is buried at the bottom of the page. Why? Don’t people typically want to see their shows in order???
    • The playlist is a nice feature, but needs some usability work. This feature needs to have better integration into the more prominent (viewable) areas of the page, rather than the top-right drop-down which can be both awkward and sluggish to use.

    Now what?!

    Hulu, continue to improve. Continue to collect feedback from your user base. But, end the private beta, before even the very happy Hulu-ers leave the very exciting and enjoyable product of Hulu for more inclusive (non-private beta) pastures like Fancast, GoFish, Veoh, MeeVee, Imeem, etc.

    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy

    P.S. And for all of you other start-ups don’t overdo the private beta. And, when in doubt…Open up. Listen to people.