What’s behind the delay of the Star Tribune’s redesigned website?

Rene Sanchez
Star Tribune
Rene Sanchez

A redesign of the Star Tribune’s website … is still coming. After announcing the re­do last Sunday, Editor and Senior Vice President Rene Sanchez amended the announcement yesterday, saying that “technical difficulties” had impeded the launch, but gave no date as to when the gremlins would be vanquished and the new look would be ready for primetime.

Via e­mail this morning, I asked Sanchez if he could offer a layman’s explanation for the problems his crew is dealing with. He replied, “I don’t speak the language of a digital engineer, but we don’t want to introduce the new website until we are certain that it loads swiftly and cleanly. We’ve had a few issues with that.”

Having some familiarity with both print and web redesigns, some of which are done just to keep up with fashion, I was curious as to what substantive changes the paper hopes to achieve with the next iteration.

“The new website will be an improvement in many ways,” Sanchez said. “But to me the two biggest are:

“The top of the home page will allow us to showcase more news, and more features, not just stack headline links. If you look at sites such as the Boston Globe, that’s where we are roughly heading with our new design.

“The other leap forward is that the reading experience on story pages will be much better — ­wide columns, better typeface, and the opportunity to embed things like video and graphics into more stories.”

The Globe site, IMHO, features a design that echoes a print paper, with a fairly clean flow of photos and sections. As someone who scans through the website regularly to produce The Glean, I personally have no grinding issues with the Strib’s current design or performance (other than the way it buries its Your Voices bloggers), though a Globe­-like upgrade could/will offer a more intuitive reader interface, certainly for old-schoolers who like the web versions of their newspapers to look like newspapers, dammit.

Sanchez said he had no analytics telling him that readers were struggling with any particular issue or section. “The current site is going strong. We’re just modernizing it and designing it better.”

But as of Friday morning, he still wasn’t putting a precise date for the debut. “I could offer a better forecast in a couple of days, once we finish testing a few things.”

***

Every cable news correspondent nattering on in search of the “whys” of the eruption in Baltimore this past week would do themselves and their viewers a world of good by reading this piece at The Marshall Project, where former New York Times editor Bill Keller interviewed David Simon, creator and writer of “The Wire,” the quintessential peeling back of inner­-city America’s onion of discontent. 

A sample:

BK: What do people outside the city need to understand about what’s going on there — the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it?

DS: I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did. … What the drug war did, though, was make this all a function of social control. This was simply about keeping the poor down, and that war footing has been an excuse for everybody to operate outside the realm of procedure and law.”

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 05/02/2015 - 08:15 am.

    Stopped reading both Star Tribune and Pioneer Press

    I used to get the Sunday paper for the grocery store ads. That paid for the paper.

    When the online versions of the newspaper were free, that was worth the time and effort *for me* because my time and eyeballs are a valuable commodity (just as the newspapers think they are a valuable commodity). Viewers/eyeballs = revenue to them via online advertisers.

    I gave up getting newspapers years ago because the value isn’t there any more. News is worth something, but I don’t see the value when advertisers won’t support it. Advertisers run their own web sites (free for users), so they have no real need to advertise in the newspapers. Perhaps news is no longer a “for profit” business but rather a “not for profit” or charity.

  2. Submitted by Gary Clements on 05/02/2015 - 08:34 am.

    Star Tribune

    What a disappointment…. going to embed more video and graphics into the website. I have already had to cancel my print Star Tribune because they now continue to charge you for a week if you put it on vacation hold, and I have given up on the website already because it loads and plays video I don’t want to see, and is covered with so much high graphic advertising that moving from page to page takes forever to load. I may not have the most up to date computer, but it’s not an oldie either. I suppose I’ll give it a try, but if video is what I wanted for news delivery I would go elsewhere. I’d like to READ the story, and be able to quickly scan the first part, like in a real paper, and move QUICKLY on when I’m ready.

  3. Submitted by Mitch Larson on 05/02/2015 - 04:13 pm.

    New Design…

    Star Tribune… please don’t have all videos automatically start as soon as I arrive on the page. It’s the most annoying aspect of CNN.com and MSNBC.com. (I realize I don’t have a leg to stand on since I don’t pay for those news sites. Or this site.)

    CNN is starting to make videos that just have text over some photos of the topic. These videos are a part of the written version of the story. Why? I prefer to read the story and only want to see video if it’s raw footage.

    Again, since I don’t pay for most of the news I read on-line, I’m actually OK with these sites adding a link to other stories after every three sentences of the story you’re reading. It looks stupid, but I get it.

    • Submitted by Bill Spankerton on 05/02/2015 - 08:04 pm.

      on avoiding auto-play videos and other web annoyances…

      Most video is Flash-based. Firefox and Chrome both have several Flash-blocking add-ons/extensions that allow you to click to activate a Flash object. It’ll change your web-browsing experience for the better!

      Firefox: Tools Menu > Add-ons, search “flash block”
      Chrome: Window Menu > Extensions, choose “Get More Extensions” at bottom, search “flash block”

      The web is not TV – you have control! Good luck!

      • Submitted by James Rickton on 05/04/2015 - 07:37 am.

        I wouldn’t say most video is Flash anymore

        It used to almost always be Flash, but a fair number of sites have moved away and are doing video with HTML 5 – probably in part because people are blocking or disabling Flash and also the fact that it’s an invitation for malware.

        You can disable Flash in IE too.
        Setting > Manage Add Ons, select the Flash add in and then click the disable button in the lower right. You might have to select the drop down to show all add ons.

        IE also has options for disabling video and sound from webpages (for those non-flash videos). Settings > Internet Options > Advanced – and there are two check boxes, one for “Play animations in web pages” and another for “Play sound in web pages.” Uncheck these boxes and you should be good.

        JR

  4. Submitted by John N. Finn on 05/03/2015 - 06:04 am.

    Freeloaders

    Maybe they are still working on patching holes in the pay wall.

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