The second notable redesign today is at News.com. Reviewing this design is a little more difficult, because it’s harder to spot what has changed. The yellow is still there, now actually looking a little orange. The front page is still a total mess, and it’s still impossible to find an individual headline there. The URLs are still impossibly long and impossible to remember.
But there are three killer features. The treemap view of the hottest stories on News.com is brilliant, as is its placement as a sidebar on every story. It’s interesting to watch popularity change in real time, too, as the current hottest story (Network feud leads to Net blackout) gets hotter. I hope that CNet thought about the effect that this treemap has on their most viewed statistics, or they might just be getting into a self reinforcing loop here.
The Big Picture is even cooler, at least at first. This moving relationship map between stories is fun to use to explore the Related Stories that CNet has long featured at the bottom of every article. Two things are keeping me from being hyper-enthusiastic about the feature, though. I don’t always understand why the connections are drawn the way they are, or what popularity has to do with the relationship between the stories. Second, like all such spider graphs, the relationships are really hard to read once too many of them appear on screen.
The third feature has the potential to be the most controversial among bloggers. That’s because it’s yet another Top 100 list of blogs that are “worth reading.” The results are interesting, especially the Blog 100 Stream (recent posts from all 100 blogs in river of news format). Even if Fark.com is flooding that river right now. I’d like to see more interactivity though. Agree or disagree? What would have been cool would be if CNet partnered with Bloglines or Kinja to allow readers to build their own lists, not just talk about them.
Final note: I wholeheartedly approve of News.com’s shift in focus from Tech News First to News of Change. In 2005, focusing on technology means focusing on law, politics, and the sciences as well.
In fact, the only obviously dumb move I see from this redesign is the My News feature. I’m not going to take the time to customize my view of News.com, folks. I’m putting that time into my RSS reader instead, because the payback is better.
Overall score: Intentions A, execution B+. Great features, but the basic page design, particularly on the home page, could still improve to make finding information easier.