Portfolio: Times Online analysis

The Times is a daily national newspaper which has been being published in the United Kingdom since 1785. The Times has a dedicated website which provides its users with a database of news stories, new and old as well as extra features that are written especially for the website. Well known organisations such as The Times must be “aware that they have to give their visitors good reasons to visit their site and good reasons to return to it.” (Geest,2001, p1) There are a number of aspects of a webpage that if not done successfully can automatically put a reader and viewer off. This essay will discuss the effectiveness of The Times Online by analysing it in terms of searchability, usability, navigation, design, content, video, audio, interactivity and user generated content.

In order for a site to be effective it must be searchable. When typing ‘times’ into Google, the Times Online is the first webpage that is presented. As well as a link to the site there are direct subject headings that will take the user directly to a specific type of news category for example “sport”. A search bar means that if the user is looking for a specific news story the Times Online search bar will allow the user to make a search before even entering the website.

A website’s navigation scheme should be intuitive, predictable, and easy to find. (Summers & Summers, 2005) The Times Online site is simple to use, its main toolbar makes it easy for a user to navigate to their desired topic of the website, whether it is ‘businesses or ‘travel’ for example. Once selecting the desired toolbar the link is highlighted and another toolbar underneath gives a number of further options.  A Clearly labelled navigation bar is one of the easiest ways to create a satisfying navigational experience for its users (Cox and Koelzer, 2004). Underneath the two toolbars is a clear direction of ‘”Where I am” this allows the user to know exactly what link they have pressed on and makes it easy for them to jump back to an initial page or the Homepage. Burgess (2008) said that “website visitors should be able to judge that the navigation should be easy to learn and use.”  The “Where I am” toolbar makes it easier for the visitor to use the navigation, going back and forth on to different pages making it specifically easy to both learn and use.

A professional website must be faultless when it comes to the links. All the links on the Times website work fast and efficiently, taking the user to and from their selected topics of news. The simple layout of the toolbar allows the user to navigate around the website successfully. There is no overcrowding on the site and although at times attention may be given to the adverts bordering the page, the main information is centred in the middle of the homepage making it easy to gain the user’s attention to the most important news stories and features.  The main stories of the day are presented at the top of homepage with a clear indication of the date.

The Times search bar allows the user to type in a keyword on a subject of their choice, once pressing the search button a variety of news stories are easily obtainable in a list format. The headline on every page provides a quick way to navigate back to the homepage and saves the user from pressing the back button on their web browser page. The search bar must function effectively on the site due to the large number of news stories and debates that the website presents.

According to Burgess (2008) a “website needs to objectively promote visual, functional and design consistency.” The design of a website is the first aspect that pulls a user in and persuades them to read on further.  The Times Online uses a plain design with blue, green and clear black font and a number of different headlines and images all placed on a white background.  The Times has a well known reputation so therefore the design of the website must work with the newspaper and its reputation in the industry. The majority of the layout suits the newspaper, and the plain white background promotes maturity. The green, white and blue colour scheme is kept across the whole site to follow through with the theme of keeping the site simple and business like. On the left hand side of the homepage the headlines are listed down the page, under specific topics. All the headlines provided are links to a specific news story. Although the headlines are spread out from one another one criticism of this site is that the page becomes cluttered with the amount of stories on the page. It is unnecessary to provide the user with so many stories, when the site boasts good navigation and the toolbars are so accessible. Thumbnail photos are presented next to some of the headlines which also act as a link to the news story. Toolboxes on the page represent specific items that the “Times recommends” and the “most popular searches on times online.” Another toolbox documents the “most read, most commented and the most curious” news stories of the day.  Overall the plain design of the site is a clear representation of the Times newspaper and the simple layout helps promotes the journalistic quality of the newspaper’s stories.

Content for the Times Online must be rich and informative to follow the reputation that the newspaper has held for many years.  At an initial glance it is clear that the site will fit within this requirement, the amount of news stories is ongoing, and when reading them they match closely to what would be expected of the Times newspaper; mature yet engaging news stories which are well written and presented. There are a high amount of articles that are not just based on news. The website boasts a high quantity of feature articles and other articles such as recipes, league tables, reviews, and interviews to name but a few. The news stories are sorted correctly under the specific headings on the toolbar. Burgess (2008) says that “content should be organised clearly and in a logical manner so information context is maintained.” It is fair to say that The Times Online website is organised very clearly and the user would be able to find what they were looking for due to the understandable signposting. A large variety of the news stories are supported with images or appropriate media, allowing for the user to support their reading with other mediums. Any media on the website which is provided in the format of audio, videos or slideshows load fast and play effectively on a regular internet connection.

“Interactivity” describes communication with a medium (Jucker, 2002, cited by Janoschka 2004). It allows a user to get involved with news topics and debates. The Times’ website allows people to comment on every news story published in a “have your say” box at the bottom of each story. However in order to do this the register must register and join an account with the website, allowing them to sign in and sign out, getting involved with news debates at their leisure. User generated content comes from the “my profile” section, once registering with the Times Online the user is able to set up a personal profile and manage their own account. By registering the user is able to take part in competitions and promotions and sign up for free email bulletins.

A separate “Comment” icon n the toolbar allows the users to navigate to the biggest selection of debatable topics that other users are already getting involved in.  The site incorporates a “recent comments” a “recent posts” box and a “you might also like” box. These are effective for a registered user; it makes it simple for them to get involved with the most debated and commented on new topics.  Esposito (2000) comments on this saying it “allows users to intervene in the communication process and to change or to treat what has been communicated to them.”  (cited by Janoschka , 2004) The Times Online also boasts a shop section to their website, once entering the section it allows the consumer to select their destination which links them to an external website. A “jobs” section allows the user to enter a job database where they search using a variety of simply laid out topics to search for jobs online.

To conclude, it is the clear that The Times Online works closely alongside the theme of The Times newspaper which has a high reputation in the newspaper industry. The website follows a simple yet effective design which reeks professionalism. Not only is the website easy to function but the straightforward layout makes it easy to navigate to a specific area of choice. The user is welcomed to comment on news stories and features making it successful in being an interactive website. The Times Online provides an easy way for users to keep up to date with a high variety of news stories and features  through the mediums of text, audio and video. On the whole The Times Online and its effective database provide its users with a satisfactory website experience.


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One Response to “Portfolio: Times Online analysis”

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  1. Time to analyse « Blog it - May 9, 2010

    […] Portfolio: Times Online analysis […]

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