Star Tribune web redesign: Open thread

The Strib’s new website is live; feel free to post your comments and questions below. I’ll try to get answers to the latter if necessary, and I’ll update this item as the mood strikes. Fans, be real. Haters, please snark responsibly.

My earlier review is here. The early consensus among the Twitter tomato-throwers seems to be that the site looks a lot better — nice, even. If you can impress that crowd, you’ve achieved something.

A few things I wasn’t able to test in my first take:

♦ Page loading seems faster but material still seems to arrive in waves. For you geeks, journalist Tom Lany says 40 or so javascript files are a lot.

♦ The main “hero box” (also known as the “rotator box”) for top stories is cleaner, but sometimes clicking on a link is trying to hop on a moving bike. The stories seem to jump too quickly if you try to control it with the directional arrows.

♦ Closed-circuit to iPad users who like the text-distilling (and ad-destroying) app Reeder: looks like the Strib has broken the Readability link, so you’ll have to click through to the actual web page. Can’t really blame ’em for that, business-wise. But the site still gives a weird “404: Page Not Found” error as it tries to link subscribers to subscriber-only coverage.

♦ The Strib is breaking stories into fewer pages, an overdue improvement it made a few months ago. (This makes City Pages the stand-alone pagination abuser.) The new Strib site includes a new “read full article” link at the bottom of page one. It might not be something you use that much, since even long stories rarely exceed two pages; it’s just as easy to click the “2.” But it’s a smart option.

As for stuff I mentioned last week, here’s a good example of how a bigger photo hole helps the improved story layout. There’s a non-intuitive “show/hide” option for captions to get the full immersion. But on the whole, I really like the graphics bump-up.

As promised, the pages really do contain fewer ads, which is great. However, BringMeTheNews senior director Tom Elko notes that Target is its own section on the main menu bar.

Elko is also the early front-runner for the buzzkill award, tweeting, “StarTribune blew a huge opportunity to improve their advertising platform. Banner ads will not sustain you and [pay]walls will not protect you.”

It’s always fun to look at the new staff photos!

OK, your turn.

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Elliot Mann on 04/05/2011 - 07:39 am.

    The general design is nice and adding more photo space is great, but links to archived stories no longer load.

  2. Submitted by Jim Boyd on 04/05/2011 - 07:43 am.

    Talk about inside baseball: I look at the Strib many times each day, and yet I have no idea of what you are talking about in most of the observations above, David. Not a criticism, just an observation on how quickly and completely the business changes.

    As a simple reader, one whose initial reactions reflect typical resistance to change, I miss the green, which I found reassuring. The white is very stark, though I do not have that reaction to MinnPost and wonder why the difference. I find the rotating stories continue their bothersome too-quick rotation, and beyond that I will simply need to explore it for a while.

    I will continue to hope that they have avoided the one thing that bothered me more than anything else about the Strib site: My index finger had adopted a circuitous path for my cursor to try to avoid those top-of-page expanding ads that erupted over the first few graphs of a story. Even understanding the revenue need that drove positioning of those ads, it almost caused me to avoid completely.

    This was a huge amount of work for the online folks; I can only imagine what it has taken out of them the past few months.

  3. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 04/05/2011 - 07:44 am.

    In Firefox, I get no Target link in the navigation banner using Adblock Plus; it is there in Safari. But I only see the text of ads; no graphics because I use ad blockers in both browsers.

    Comments are still broken, since they removed the ability to format them with HTML codes months ago. So they’re still just run-on sentences in one big paragraph. Horrible and unforgivable.

    Logging in to make a comment is hidden from the user. You have to go to Subscriber Services > Manage Account to login, but then you’re taken back to the home page instead of the page for the story you came from and wanted to comment on. Lame.

    Subheads in stories aren’t subheads at all; they’re in the same font as the story, which makes them indistinguishable from the story. Subheads should be bold.

    Doodledee doesn’t work anymore, at least not for me. But if they’ve really improved pagination, there should be a link to read the whole story from the page where you saw the headline for the story; not within the story itself.

    The rotator box goes too fast, and there’s no way to stop it. They need to give the user control of how fast it goes, and the ability to stop it.

  4. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 04/05/2011 - 07:49 am.

    Tp paraphrase Freud, sometimes a newspaper website is just a newspaper website. To me, the content and quality of the news is what’s important, not the delivery medium.

    That said, I think the dailies are still well behind MPR, KSTP-TV and WCCO-TV in adding reader-generated content to their websites. The MNSun site now has an section for reader-generated content, as does the upstart Patch sites.

    It’s not a bad looking website. But it could have been much more.

  5. Submitted by Bob Collins on 04/05/2011 - 08:01 am.

    Staff directory alphabetized by first name is interesting. Love the staff photos.

  6. Submitted by Aaron Vehling on 04/05/2011 - 08:13 am.

    There is beauty in the stark, clean presentation of the new site. I think it’s beautiful and profoundly more user-friendly than the previous incarnation, which was just horrible.

  7. Submitted by John Olson on 04/05/2011 - 08:13 am.

    It is a significant improvement for many of the reasons already stated.

    Too bad the quality of some of the comments can’t be upgraded.

  8. Submitted by Karl Pearson-Cater on 04/05/2011 - 08:24 am.

    Strib redesign looks fantastic! Home page, especially.

    Is the auto-page-refresh-o-matic gone? I did a quick scan of the source code, and didn’t see it. But I didn’t dig too deep.

  9. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 04/05/2011 - 08:29 am.

    @Karl (#8)

    Auto-refresh is not gone, so if you want to stop that, turn off JavaScript.

  10. Submitted by Tom Elko on 04/05/2011 - 08:52 am.

    I don’t mean to be a total buzzkill – as the redesign is a step in the right direction – but I do believe the number one issue facing the STrib, and other media organizations like it, are falling revenues. Banner advertising is as antiquated as the Internet gets and fail to serve the publisher, the advertiser or the reader.

    Overhauling your entire site for usability is a great thing to do, no doubt, but if you’re going to make that investment in your digital product you might as well reevaluate the ad model that is failing to sustain your operations. It’s a missed opportunity that may not come again for the STrib for another three or four years.

  11. Submitted by Nate Dybvig on 04/05/2011 - 09:14 am.

    I agree with the comment that the directory is nicer to look at. Now, if we could only convince them to update the staff bios. I am pretty sure Larry Oakes is not running the metro desk from an office in Duluth.

  12. Submitted by Andy Kruse on 04/05/2011 - 01:25 pm.

    The site sure looks better, but they’re still not labeling content in any meaningful way. In the time it takes editors to tag a story as East Metro (too broad for me), they could be telling the system that the story takes place in Woodbury, which is something I would care to follow.

  13. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 04/05/2011 - 01:34 pm.

    I like the site but, I really think it does not look very attractive. It is just too plain and white. Where is the pizazz?? The comment section is horrible. Give me a little dazzle please!! The site looks just plain boring!!

  14. Submitted by Paul Joppa on 04/05/2011 - 05:54 pm. looks good. does not. The updates are not getting through.

  15. Submitted by Allison Sandve on 04/05/2011 - 06:17 pm.

    I like it.

  16. Submitted by Brian Elfert on 04/05/2011 - 07:07 pm.

    What revenue model would you folks who think banner ads don’t work suggest instead? It has been proven time and again that Internet users won’t pay for their news. I never quite realized how many ads the old site had until the new site came online.

    There is a sign in/sign out button at the top of the page, but it strangely doesn’t appear until the page is fully loaded.

    The comments section sucks worse than before. It is almost unreadable due to the lack of proper borders between comments. It needs to have the ability to create paragraph breaks with a simple carriage return which it never has had in the past. I already sent in my feedback about the comments section.

  17. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 04/05/2011 - 08:03 pm.

    Feels like someone opened a window and bunch of clutter and junk just blew away. Format looks very similar to Tribune owned sites like the L.A. Times which I thoroughly enjoy as far as surfing experience. Haven’t explored much yet but I wish advertisers were discouraged from using gawdy hot pink like ads. It detracts from the site and no, it does not grab my attention in a positive way and “make me want to learn more” Rather I want to do the polar opposite of engaging it. That said though I think the layout is refreshing and really a nice step forward.

  18. Submitted by Elliot Mann on 04/06/2011 - 01:04 am.

    I should amend my earlier comment; SOME of the archived stuff hasn’t made it over to the new site. Some of the Gopher football stories from the past few years haven’t made it, but others have, so it might just be kind of touch and go.

    The site is an improvement, I think. I wasn’t a huge fan of the main story window box. Comparatively, I love the layout of the online New York Times.

    It’s odd, typically people reject any sort of change to the layout of the printed paper, but people’s comments here seem generally positive; plus, people seemed to generally like the previous layout.

  19. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 04/06/2011 - 06:21 am.

    Much nicer look, faster performance. Well done Strib.

    Only beef is that rotator picture/story box. It’s like a video game trying to click a story and then the link. Moves way too fast. My guess is they didn’t test it on faster computers/browsers.

Leave a Reply