Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Standard--Examiner Live! Edition Has Been "Upgraded"

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," as the old saying goes

By Curmudgeon

The Standard-Examiner's new on line page is now up. Sort of. [They're still stamping out gremlins over there and much that wasn't working earlier today seems to be working now.]

It is touted as a grand improvement. In some ways, possibly it is. Possibly. But there are two "improvements" that seem to me bad ideas.

1. The old page contained, as soon as it came up, ten or a dozen lead stories --- the headlines and a one sentence lede. You could scan quickly and click on the story your wanted. The "improved" version now puts up only five stories, with much longer excerpts. At the top of the page, there is a picture box with fifteen numbered buttons below it. The top fifteen stories scroll through that box, one a time coming up every few seconds. So to see all the stories available, other than what the SE thinks are the top five, you have to either wait for the box to scroll through until the story you want comes up, or you have to click through the number tags, one at a time, until you find the story you want, if it's there. If yours happens to be number 14 or 15, or it's not on the scroll through list at all, you're going to do either a lot of clicking or a lot of waiting to find that out. The old system which provided instant access to the top ten or twelve stories immediately [and let you know if the story you wanted was not there so you could do a search for it right off], was, I think, much faster and easier to use. Much more user friendly, as they say.

2. The "most recent comments" box has disappeared entirely. Gone. I don't know about others, but I found that box very useful, and a fast way to pick upon the current on-going conversations. Now I'd have to note the number of comments on every story I was interested in, and when I come back later, remember what that number was to know if, when the story came up, any new comments had been added. And if the story I was interested in wasn't one of the top five, I'd have to either wait or click through to even see the number of comments attached to that story. The "latest comments" list was fast, and useful. And it's apparently gone gone gone. Why?


RudiZink said...

Thanks for submitting the heads-up Curm. Your blogmeister has been struggling over similar questions this morning. I'd been thinking of putting up a short article on this topic, but you beat me to the punch.

From my point of view as your blogmeister, the most serious downside of this "new improved" version, is that all previous SE articles have been wiped out. Thus our readers this morning have been getting "page not found" error messages to all the SE Live! articles which we've been graciously linking over the past several months.

The upshot? Barring the recovery by the SE of these older stories, your blogmeister will be working his fingers to the bone editing previous WCF articles over the next few days, inserting Digital Edition links.

What a royal pain in the arse!

blackrulon said...

It seems that the new and improved version was designed by the IT people without any input from users. I noticed that they offered a sign in/register feature that could seem to be a start for charging a fee. I am still searching to find the blogger sites of Charlie Trentelman and Doug Gibson among others. It is only new and improved for the people who designed the change. It is more difficult to find and track stories and comments.

Curmudgeon said...


Go down to the bottom of the home page of SE Live. You will see a handful of spiffy little icons. The one on the right is a "B". If you click on that, it will take you to the blogs. I presume they're going to fix the blog list that was up last I checked which started with July twitter updates and ended with an August 16 blog.

Curmudgeon said...

Correction: the SE has saved the "recent comments" list. They've just hidden it behind a tab you have to click. [Look on the left, near top of page, right above the "most popular list." If you click on the recent comments tab, it takes a few seconds to load the recent comments list.

But, last time I checked, what comes up is just a list of the nic of who posted, his designation of topic, and the time posted. No earthly idea of what article the comment is about. The old system told you who posted it, the article it referred to, and the opening words of the post so you had some idea what it was about, and if you'd already seen it. Unless you're real good a memorizing time stamps, the new list provides nearly none of that.

I too noticed that all existing comments were lost in the switchover.

Hey, any new system goes up, there are going to be gremlins that need to be stomped on. They're fixing them. What worries me more is the design elements that seem to make the site harder, not easier, to use. And putting the "recent comments" list behind a tab that requires a click through and wait to load will, I'm afraid, cut down on their comment traffic [and so on page views]. Making it harder to find top stories [listing only five, and requiring you to wait for the rest to scroll through the box, or to click through ten number box tabs yourself] may do the same.

I want the SE around for me to grouse about for a long time. An "improvement" that cuts down on what was becoming a fairly vigorous comments section [I know, I know, a lot of right wing "Obama is Hitler!" ranting, but still...] isn't going to be good news for a paper that's increasingly relying on its on-line platforms to generate page views and, therefore, revenues.

But it's early days. I presume things that do not turn out to be improvements in the new design can be altered to make them more user friendly --- at least as user friendly as the old design was.

And I confess, I have no idea what all those numbered "topics" stacked on top of the limited news story column are supposed to mean, or why the type size differs or why different topics have the same numbers attached to them.

I imagine the SE IT staff feels up to their keisters in alligators at the moment. When things settle down, maybe they'll do guided tours or something to help folks deal with the.... improvements?

Curmudgeon said...

Things getting better. The front page now lists 13 or 14 top stories, as the old one did. You no longer have to wait for them to scroll through the picture box at the top, nor do you have to click through the numbered tabs.

They're on the problems and they're fixing them. [Grumble, grouse, complain.... I figured the new look would be good for at least two or three days of solid kvetching... grumble, grouse, complain....]

The "recent comments" listings are still a problem. Here for example is the complete listing for one recent comment:

# dkm1469 3 hours 23 min ago

Anyone have any idea what story it's a comment about, or any other hint about what the comment deals with? Thought not. Me neither.

And the blog list on the front page still lists no current blogs [but I'm sure that's a glitch, not a design feature].

Curmudgeon said...

Ooops. Back down to only five front page stories again.

Clearly they're working on the site and things are changing by the minute. Think I'll back off and wait until this evening and see what seems to have emerged as the final-look. Things flipping back and forth too fast now to make comment worth while.

Val Holley said...

I have yet to encounter any entity's web redesign that does not result in a diminution of service.

Webmasters are under pressure to justify their paychecks, so periodically they redesign. Their interests and our interests don't coincide. We want information. They want to appear like they're not just sitting there, but doing something. It doesn't matter that the old design wasn't "broken."

Anonymous said...

Actually, IT departments exist in a dynamic environment, dealing with far more than just the layout of a website.
And it is not just at the news-"papers".

Of course, the diminishing profit returns of print news media means the IT departments are searching to maximize revenue per click, and to find new ways to write code so that previously untapped profit can be realized.
All while using minimum bandwidth.

Its not all just shiny buttons, underwear ads, and public notices.

Curmudgeon said...

Whoo hooo, it's gone completely nuts now. Just checked and what came up was a full page of black and white code. No text at all, no color, just little code icons, thousands of them. They must be about ready to drink chlorox over there.

No move kvetching today. It would be piling on.

Curmudgeon said...

Front page blog list has been fixed; now lists most recent blog threads. Good.

Recent Comments list still gives nearly no information beyond poster, time posted and the poster's stab at "subject." Still no hint of what story is being commented on.

Still only five stories on front page, requiring a wait or multiple number tab clicks to find stories lower down.

Things getting better, but they're not where should be yet.

RudiZink said...

Here's the deal, Curm. No website who wants to be taken seriously rolls out new software without thoroughly testing it first. The fact that the Std-Ex seems to be still incrementally fixing its new software right out in front of its readers, just demonstrates what a bush league organization the SE really is.

This whole spactacle is very sad; and it could have been avoided if management had kept it's deadlines off the IT department, who are really trying to initiate a fairly big project.

And no, blackrulon. I don't believe this new website upgrade was initiated by the SE IP department.

What's happening here with the Standard-Examiner, is that the dolts from SE upper management are ignoring the advice of their IP staff, and are requesting a design that's completely inappropriate for the webosphere.

Curmudgeon said...


I'm not ready to say "completely inappropriate," though clearly they weren't as ready to go live as they might have been. I'll wait until their out-in-front-of-God-and-everybody shakedown cruise is over, and the site is working as they want it to, before drawing any final conclusions about whether its an improvement, and if so, how much of one. Once they get all the bells and whistles going off as they want them to, we can take the thing for a good, thorough test drive and see what we think.

Ray Vaughn said...

What a website. Confusing,slow and difficult to navigate and registration required. It's as if Matthew Godfrey works at the S-E in the IT design department.

Curmudgeon said...

Aw, come on Ray... it's not that bad. The background picture is not a gondola; registering doesn't require you to pay a fee to Provident Partners or Envision Ogden or Gold's Gym or another FOM. And registering does not automatically cast an absentee ballot for the Godfreyite in all at-large Council races --- at least, I don't think it does. Had Hizzonah done the design, it would have done all of that.... at least.

Site's down at the moment, so no way to know if the glitches have been ironed out. Hope so. Election's coming on.

Ray Vaughn said...

Curm; Now you've done it. You have given the Gondola Examiner some ideas. No wonder traditional media is in trouble. The new site is so bad that they will lose traffic. An upgrade? designed by techno geeks without any user input.

rammy said...

Hey Rudi! Have you noticed the Standard's new website has copied your colors (Orange and light blue)?

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, hahaha!

Standard crew said...

The Standard has been going down hill since the Ohio gang took it over from the Hatch family. George Hatch died the other day incidentally. The place is now run by accountants, none of whom have a clue about the news business let alone the internet. I predict the paper will be bankrupt within a year. Just glad I got out while there were still other jobs out there.

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