user experience

The Top Online News Experience is…

windows_on_monitor_thumb1_thumb1[9](part 5 of 5)….well… keep reading to find out.Over the past few weeks we have all looked at both the Enjoyable and Unsatisfying sides of the top 3 news websites. For those who use them, each individual has found within their favorite source the right mixture of both compelling experience and content that brings them back again and again.Before dubbing the victorious online news experience, I would be remiss to not point out some of the most pressing changes and improvements that all current and prospective news product users would be ecstatic to see…

Yahoo News’ To Do…00_yahoo_homepage

  • Stop concealing the customization options. Allow for easy and obvious customization of the order and inclusion/exclusion of the content on the page.
  • Everywhere, except on the homepage, there is a feature that allows for toggling between headlines only, include summaries, and include photos. However, just like the other customizations, it is very poorly placed — very easy to miss. Yahoo, to help people who are in a hurry, place this feature in an easier to find location and extend this handy feature to the homepage.
  • Eliminating the ‘old style’ feeling website, reducing the aggregator-information overload would go far in improving the overall user experience and enhance the Desirability and Usefulness factors for Yahoo News.

CNN Online’s To Do…00_cnn_homepage

  • CNN has a plenty of good ideas they are working with, but needs to clean up the rough edges of
    • Accessibility is not mentioned enough in reviews of products’ user experience. In this area, CNN does a good job on the article pages, allowing their readers to resize the text with an easy click of the button. This type of functionality should be extended beyond the article pages to all aspects of the site.
    • Page layout and use of whitespace, when used well, can allow for the UX designer to convey a large amount of information within small confines. The page layouts and their usage need to be better utilized to reduce those regions of the page where there is excessive whitespace or labels that unflatteringly wrap to additional lines. Whitespaces (and awkward text layout) distract from the content of the page, often causing the eyes to look at regions of nothingness wondering what article was meant for there.
    • would also benefit from more dynamically loading elements throughout the website. The fewer additional pages that need to load, the faster that the information can be accessed, the better the UX.
    • Better labeling of links that navigate away from to external, non-CNN branded websites and search (that searches the web, as opposed to, by default) would further help reduce unnecessary surprises within the CNN online experience.’s To Do…00_msnbc_homepage

  • In general handles customization of the news experience very well. Customization would benefit from the following improvements…
    • The customization of the news can be found to be scattered all over and requires a great deal of scrolling up and down repeatedly. Allow for a centralized means by which all of the settings can be adjusted
    • Controlling the number of articles to view per section gets too prominent a placement on the page. This is a nifty feature that is easy to use, but surely there exists more useful information or functionality that can be presented in its place (with the control of the number of articles being relocated to the centralized settings control).
  • The Topic links, located in the rightmost region of each page sub-section, present an experience inconsistent with the similar topic selectors within the Explore box at the top of the homepage. When clicking within the Explore box, the article content is dynamically displayed – nice and quickly, no page loads. When clicking one of the Topic links, the user is navigated to a brand new webpage.
    • Enable the dynamic loading of the articles associated with each Topic within the subsection associated with that topic. It will greatly enhance the usability, utility and overall user experience of
  • The dynamic aspects of the news experience can also be further enhanced, through the usage of dynamic mouse-overs for articles. When a mouse lingers over an article for more than a few seconds, a balloon containing some summary information about the article or other related actions can be displayed — empowering the user to take a peak, and deciding the best use of his/her time — deciding which articles call for more/less engagement.


The winner is MSNBC’s online news experience which made excellent use of layout, user control, and dynamic elements – all of which I found maximized the user experience, most especially the Desirability and Usefulness. Of course, everyone has their preferences, their own personal news site winner, and the role of user experience fits into everyone’s decision differently — individually valuing how much weight goes to UX, and how much weight goes to the content or reporters, is unique and personal to everyone.


Does it all really matter? Today, these three news sites remain popular and strong. But, for yourself, or perhaps some or many of your friends, the primary source of news is niche blogs and news sites, frequently accumulated through one or a collection of RSS feeds. Share what parts of your favorite online news experience you enjoy that lead you to prefer one news website over another.

The question, the issue, that the top three, Yahoo, CNN, MSNBC has to solve is how to compete with all of these alternate (and often more expedient) news sources.

How do you see the news sites evolving to compete with the alternate, more flexible, more in control of the users, sources of news?

Will they be able to adapt? (or fade away)

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Enjoy & Discuss & Share!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy