Websites vary in their scope, design and functions, I was tasked at looking at two competing websites and break them down into a comparative essay; here’s a slightly more casual edit of my final piece…
When comparing websites it is imperative to understand the effectiveness of their tags and keywords, the relevance and usability of their design and whether the site reads well or not; I’m going to look at two ‘Journalism’ websites, both aiming to serve its audience by updating them with current affairs stories around the world. The first website we’ll look at is the BBC news website, an offshoot off of the public-service broadcaster television channel(s), the other is a website called Ekklesia-another news website that seems to have some key elements of its structure and design flawed.
The BBC site has a very current and relevant feel, users can clearly see when the site was last updated and as per standard with most news blogs all articles are time (and sometimes location) stamped; furthermore users can be linked throughout the site guided by a related article list (specific seemingly only to sport stories though) and a popular article generator next to the article being currently read. Noticeably there are no hyperlinks within the articles themselves, limiting user exploration not only about key topics, I think the benefits of hyperlinks such as reader gratification and pingbacks outweighs any graphical choices and should have been included. Jakob Nielson (2009) highlighted how the BBC news site has some of the best titles on the web due to how they are concise, loaded with keywords and inform readers of the content whom may not know have known anything of the article beforehand. The BBC homepage also offers excellent navigation towards its multimedia content as well, with a video box at the top right corner within which readers can scroll through several video reports; readers can also easily find live radio news content in the same area of the page, helping to keep the BBC’s large multimedia content concise and manageable. Though this is also acknowledged as a luxury, as Barnhurst (2009) highlights that it is not the creative mediums available to websites that draws in readers but instead the same content as print journalism, just now available on a more relative medium that attracts modern day audiences.
In terms of design and layout the BBC news page does very well, the page’s main colour themes mirror those of the BBC (1) channel, a red on white banner that is a key signifier of the websites ownership. Beyond the basic colour scheme other colours in the BBC’s palette include ‘off’ blues and yellows, these are set against a clear white background that still creates a good amount of contrast which is key for the readership as contrast equals clearness (Flanders 2010). In tandem with the graphical choices is the designs ‘usability’, the BBC does very well in gratifying the objective needs of (online) news readers, readers who want to read about politics go to the ‘politics’ category etc; furthermore users are linked to similar category stories from the article pages and always have an ever present graphic that can link them back to the sites main page. Readers also have the opportunity to comment and share articles with a range of sharing options found at the top of the articles and a comment section below; seemingly a lot of the BBCs community contribute to the website which suggests a lot of consumer loyalty and implies less ‘one off’ viewers/hits. The BBC news site also cleverly uses html very subtly to combat any ‘mystery meat’ navigation issues-all linkable images (and videos) have an inserted text link on their bottom quarter explain where the image link will take you, so as to avoid users having to hover over the graphic and read the page destination.
A search term of “Student Protests” in Google finds the BBC covering the top two uncategorised links (not compiled by Google within ‘news’ or ‘video’), then a search term of “Student Protests BBC” through Google finds the BBC populating the top ten hits. Using the Bing search engine, the search term “Student Protests” again finds the BBC near the top with the second and third hits and with “BBC” added to the term, it again does well with the top four hits linking back to it. The BBC owes the success of its search engine optimisation (SEO) to its near-perfect use of keywords and search terms within its content and tags and probably to a degree, its already established success.
Within SEO, the other website up for comparison does not fare so well: the Ekklesia news blog does not place highly in online searches; the exact same search term “Student Protests” in both Google and Bing do not link back to Ekklesia within their first five pages of suggestions, maybe they appear beyond these but it seems counterproductive to search until they were (potentially) found. Furthermore Ekklesia does not fare well in too many other elements of its web design; visually though not lacking in contrast the colour scheme of the pages is reminiscent of ‘404’ navigation pages with default plain blues and dark text. Also images from the sidebar overlap content, appear stretched and distorted and some also have a large white box around the central image, leading to unintentional clicks.
Articles are not categorised or even time stamped (until selected) and the main navigation for the site is splayed across the top banner with significant categories and some drop-down sub-categories. Ekklesia uses vague category terms such as ‘Books’ or ‘UK News’ forcing readers to trawl through large sections of the site which objective readers, will just not do. Furthermore a significant amount of page space is invaded with advertisements, links through Google, image and text all impeding the balance of the page; however among these links are also opportunities for the readers to share the articles via Twitter, StumbleUpon but the site does not support a comment function which significantly limits interaction; readers are invited to subscribe to the blog but this is the only interactive option available to them.
Ekklesia’s content though is on par with the BBCs as its content is very well research, sourced and written, the site clearly acknowledges the webs unprejudiced potential to disclose freely of governmental or economic ties (Himelboim 2009)and it’s incredibly surprising to read such rich content within such a poorly conceived site. Furthermore, once readers find their way to an article they are not invited to read other similar posts, instead readers can click on similar search terms within a Google advert banner which only directs traffic away from the site, an unbelievable design flaw.
The weaknesses of Ekklesia lies not in its content, but in its implementation-though finding the site is hard, finding content within it is harder. The layout and design seem to have been put together very quickly and un-moderated since, the sloppiness of the some of the layout is inexcusable and the site would benefit greatly from some simple tweaks here and there.
Barnhurst, K., 2009. The Internet and News: Changes in Content on Newspaper Websites. Conference Papers — International Communication Association. 1, 1-15.
Himelboim, I., 2009. The International Network Structure of News Media: An Analysis of Hyperlinks Usage in News Websites Worldwide. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1, 1-36.
Nielson, J., 2009. World’s Best Headlines: BBC News. USA: Nielson Norman Group. Available from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/headlines-bbc.html [Assessed 7th December 2010].
Flanders, V., 2010. Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015. Washington: Flanders Enterprises. Available from: http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/biggest-mistakes-in-web-design-1995-2015.html#6 [Assessed 5th December 2010].