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ABC News: Too much information

Fri, Nov 3, 2006

News | Author:

www.abcnews.com

Introduction

News websites seem to take great delight in bombarding the reader with lots of information and links on the first page, cheap and the ABC News website is no exception. The problem of information overload can be overcome by sectioning text appropriately and making text easier to read and less complicated.

Form and Function

From a design point of view, advice the ABC News website looks like many other news sites in that there is a lot of information which is sectioned into “Top Headlines”, “Hot Topics” etc. There is also the traditional top and left menu bar and some advertising thrown in for good measure. Where the ABC News website is different is evident on the first page where the length of the page is extraordinary and needs to be broken up. The prominent news box is a good idea, but the page numbers and < > underneath may confuse some readers who are not sure what these items are for. Also, please note that some information is cut off on the “Entertainment” and “Nightline” pages!

There are too many bolded and coloured images (eg, “video” and “photos”) in the block text which can confuse readers. These could be toned down by making them into grey normal text (not images) with an underline showing the link. This might also help to get the text sitting on the same baseline instead of the images not positioning correctly with the text.

The first page itself doesn’t look evenly balanced, as the top banner, logo, left menu and left column don’t match up widthwise. Lining these up would make the first page more eye-pleasing. There seems to be a few different fonts on the page (eg, the left column and middle blocks of text) and this problem could be eliminated by the use of a cascading style sheet to make all text on the website have the same font. Headlines and so on could have another style.

There is no need for another “Search” function below everything else in the right column on the first page, since there is already one up the top.

While the website is consistent in layout throughout, the different (and bright) colours used on different pages for the categories looked too contrasting and made the pages too different to each other. Having the same colours, font etc on every page would certainly help address reader confusion as the eye would skip over the same detail, in search of new text, therefore accessing the new information quicker.

I liked the way the word “advertisement” was presented and how the advertisements did not detract from the news. Well done on putting the ads in discreetly. Readers really hate those pop ups!

Navigation is straightforward and considering the amount of information contained, loading times were adequate.

Conclusion

Overall, the website structure was fine and there are only a few design problems to worry about. Getting the information overload less complicated-looking and easier to read and search through would help the reader immensely. Most news websites have to face this problem and only a few have actually mastered it – so best of luck!

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