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.