Blog Post 2: Design of USAToday.com

This week I chose the website of USA Today to critique. The print edition of USA Today is famous for its infographics and nice layout, so I want to take a look at whether its website is also well designed.

Krug’s first guideline is creating a clear visual hierarchy on each page. A news site will contain a large amount of content. By creating a clear visual hierarchy, readers can easily separate different sections and will not get lost. I think USA Today achieved this standard in a smart way. They used different colors to categorize the news content ­— the blue news section, the red sports section and the purple life section, etc. The hierarchy is clear and simple.

Its website actually has three navigation bars. The first is at the header of the website, the second is at the footer, and the third is the arrows at the left and right side of the website. By using the side arrows as navigation, readers can make a swift change to different sections even during scanning.

Grids were used to help break the page up into squares and rectangles. They are coherent all over the page. It gave me a neat feeling. All the photos and headlines are clickable and you can see the visual change if you move the cursor over them. The combination of photos and short headlines will not make users spend too much time reading and thinking, which meets one of the 10 principles of effective web design.

One more thing, the noise at its homepage is little, which is also mentioned by Krug. Actually, I’m surprised to find that it has few advertisements. Readers can benefit from that. They can focus directly on useful content.

I think the only improvement would be to use more active elements.

Overall, I like this site. It’s easy to navigate and figure out. Readers will not be bothered by too much noise. The website of USA Today serves the function of providing valuable content to readers. Just like what Vitaly Friedman said, users will always appreciate quality and credibility.

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About Zhou Hang

Graduate student of Missouri School of Journalism. Enterprise reporter for the Columbia Missourian. Interested in movie, music, cycling, tennis and jogging.

2 thoughts on “Blog Post 2: Design of USAToday.com

  1. I agree with you that the website has a clear hierarchy. The lead story is ran large front and center. Also, the small tags depicting what category they belong to is nice. Since they are color coated, it can be easier to tell them apart.
    I really like how the top tool bar follows you down the screen as you scroll. This helps so you don’t have to scroll all the way up the page to change categories. This seems like a small detail, but I think it’s very convenient.
    I like how every story has a photo to go along with it. It adds a sense of context before you even read the headline. This also creates a visually pleasing layout to the whole page. All the headlines are tucked neatly within the photo box to reduce noise.
    On the other hand, there is very little tease into the stories. Since all they are is a photo and a headline, you still know very little about the story, which makes it hard to determine if it’s something you’d be interested in. I think it would be very simple and easy to add a small lead in for some of the bigger stories and it wouldn’t harm their design.
    Overall I think it is a very appealing website. It is very easy to navigate and not a lot of noise.

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  2. I agree with everything that has been said thus far, but I would like to briefly comment on one design element in the website that I am nota huge fan of.

    When one clicks on a headline to read a story, it opens up as a pop-up right on the page. To me, it feels too much like pop-up ads to be enjoyable, and I find myself almost taking it less seriously, as if it were actually an ad, or wanting to close it immediately so I can see the actual page.

    I appreciate USA Today adding related links throughout the story and suggesting other stories I may like at the bottom of the page, so I don’t have to close out of each pop-up story to go find something new to read, but I still think it is an unnecessary feature, and one that reminds me of advertisements too much.

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