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A Letter to Our Readers

The New York Times unveiled a new layout and some features today, and Leonard M. Apcar, the NYTimes.com's Editor in Chief explains it. With the jury is still out on Times Select, this is the latest move from the NYTimes to keep itself from becomming old news.

The good:
~ The site is faster.
~ The page is wider and displays content in a more organized way.
~ Multimedia is front-and-center and works well.
~ Blogs are promoted on the front page.
~ Seems to be search and RSS index-friendly.

The bad:
~ The font, while readable, is common.
~ The layout is boring and lacks brand impact.
~ There is too much information on the front page to digest.
~ Times Select, their paid service, takes up way too much real estate.

The ugly:
~ A few sites, including The Guardian, mentions the MyTimes service ... which isn't available yet. I can understand promoting a beta, but since when is it smart to promote a service which doesn't even exist? This is an uncommon move fr the Times, and I'm very surprised. Given all the other things that could generate buzz and excitement, why promote something people cannot even test drive? The Times is not a delayed Microsoft OS or a long-overdue video game.

~ For whatevever reason, I could not get the "most emailed, blogged and searched tabs to work." Not like I'm using some crazy set-up or something: I'm using Firefox on a PC. There is no excuse for this, if indeed this is not a problem on my side.

~ Maybe it is just me, but I think the Times has lost some of its personality with this redesign. It just looks more like other sites. Is it just me? At their last major redesign (5 years ago, I think), I remember thinking that they added to the user experience (much better navigation and better use of photography and breaking news, for example) but they did not take away the feeling that I was on the New York Times site. Other than the masthead, I'm not sure if I still feel that way. This could be the Wash Post or Herald Tribune. They're great publications and sites, don't get me wrong. But the Times is the Times and this new design does not reinforce that.

Other opinions:

Anil Dash is very positive about the new design and suggests that "thereís a few lessons for bloggers to learn from the redesign, as well as some evidence that the Times itself has been learning from bloggers." Given the six column design and weight given to blogs, RSS and 2.0-type navigation, it isn't hard to see why Anil likes the new look.

He mentions Khoi Vinís Subtraction as an example of the type of design that the Times might have been emulating. Makes sense, since he had been recently named Design Director of the Times. While some (like me if truth be told) might think that Khoi led this redesign, the editorís note makes clear that things have been in the works for over a year. Anil also points to Khoi's blog where he "offers up some details on what the process and team look like."

Dave Winer is unimpressed: I'm not very excited about the redesign of the NY Times home page because it ignores most that has been learned about reading news on a computer screen, and instead models the front page of the print pub. Not a good use of the screen, it ignores the fact that they can produce a new document for each user every time they visit.

Generally speaking, it looks like Jeff Jarvis isn't that thrilled, either. See: Not quite, Times.

Robert Scoble likes "that the redesign uses the Georgia font, developed by Microsoft. That font was developed for high readability and it sure does help make the NYT look great."

Over on the Guardian, they like the apparant gain in speed and point out the following: The main difference is that it's wider, but the menu system has been greatly improved, and the unweildy drop-downs have, thankfully, gone. Video works a treat. But the best thing of all -- and one that nobody seems to mention -- is that it's blisteringly fast. Here, switching sections (eg from Sports to Arts) takes less than two seconds. Subjectively, it seems about twice as fast as the Guardian, maybe more.

Arrington's opinion is pretty favorable: First, they now have a dedicated area of the site to show video clips. And more importantly, they have a "most popular" area that includes most emailed, most blogged, and most searched articles. I like the directions the Times is going - and I also note that they are now experimenting with linking to blog posts directly from articles.

Here's the link to the Rake's interview with NYTCO Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. on Times Select, just in case you're interested.

Monday, April 03, 2006   permalink to archived copy   del.icio.us   DiggIt  

  Comments:

You're spot-on about this redesign losing sight of the brand's visual identity. I'd always taken great comfort in the feeling of consistency between the print and online versions, as superficial as that consistency may have been. Despite several positive changes, it feels like they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
# posted by Blogger Pete : 9:11 PM, April 03, 2006  

Too generic, right Pete? They've lost some of their brand identity. Scoble disagrees w/ me, btw ... That conversation is here:
http://tinyurl.com/pcme3

~G~
# posted by Blogger George Nimeh : 11:42 AM, April 04, 2006  

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