REVIEW

Website Review: The New York Times Website Redesign

April 06, 2006
Sadagopan S

I have been personally involved in very large web redesign initiatives. I continue to oversee several such engagements and I do not hold the view that web presence strategies for large corporates, media houses or large-budget initiatives are not necessarily enterprise level activities. Very large web presence rollouts call for enterprise-wide involvement and affect a major portion of enterprise activities. Also note that large web redesign activities cost close to a medium-size enterprise software solution and deployment costs and are most certainly CIO-level initiatives.

After all one in three internet users are said to be visiting newspaper sites. Web redesign activities involve a lot - usability issues, information architecture, compliance with regulations, publish subscribe strategies, integration into overall eBusiness strategies, integration with lot more enterprise and legacy systems, language concerns etc.

The last major web redesign in the media - based on budget spend and impact - as far as I can recollect, happened with the Wall Street Journal, a few years back. It has to be noted that the online edition is a major money spinner for Dow Jones today.

Coming to the redesigned New York Times (NY Times) site, I find that the wide page layout makes good use of the display real estate, in the process accommodating lot more stuff and creating a very rich look. I see that the site is loading fast enough, provides good support for multimedia displays and is, in general, blog friendly with support for RSS. As the NY Times editor explains, new features include providing prominent links to a list of most e-mailed and blogged articles, most searched-for information and popular movies.

A new tab at the top of the page takes you directly to the most popular features. Another new tab takes you to a list of articles as they appeared in the newspaper, section-by-section. The guided tour shows the magnitude of changes made and their web presence now looks seriously good.

Rating - 8.5/10

Anil Dash makes the point, "There's few lessons for bloggers to learn from the redesign, as well as some evidence that the Times itself has been learning from bloggers". Khoi Vinh provides details of the enormous work that went behind this redesign.

Now to discuss this further, why are these important to monitor? As there is a seismic shift that is happening in the traditional media, e-media is becoming stronger and stronger. As I wrote recently,

Dow Jones announced more profits from online compared to traditional media (this in my opinion reflects two things: the online presence helps traditional media reach larger numbers of people and the rise of online world can't be resisted, it's better to embrace it. Indications are that the combined strength of both online and offline readership of the Wall Street Journal is larger than traditional print media readership).

Retailers can definitely experience that buyers of all trendy and unique things surf online, do their research before any purchase. In the online world, comparison shopping, targeted advertising, promotional schemes, personalization and preference patterns all provide unique value that can potentially drive offline sales as well quite significantly. Add mobile technologies to an online presence and the combination can really create a deep impact in the offline world.

Dow Jones is now further integrating its print and online publications. The plan was a "major first step" in moving away from a system in which properties were organized according to their channels of distribution and toward one in which they are divided by their target audiences. Media companies are facing fundamental challenges driven by technological change and Dow Jones believes that the new structure is "fully reflecting how people now get their news" - a mix of online and print. It's good to see the NY Times is paying attention to the online side of the business in a big way.

Sadagopan's blog is focused on emerging technologies & trends.The author can be reached at sadagopan@gmail.com
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