For too long, I’ve begrudgingly accepted online inconvenience, relying on Google and bookmarks to find what I was looking for. I’ve rationalized about the size and complexity of the job, assuming it would get better soon. I was wrong. I feel compelled to say it:
Washingtonpost.com is a poorly designed website.
Here’s ten reasons, in no particular order.
1. Popunder Advertising
Often when you load the homepage, an Economist or another advertisement will pop up, unless you’ve got a blocker running. It’s annoying and violates online best practices.
2. Bloated Code
3. The Menubar
Although I noticed they recently enlarged it, I find the hover-over topical menubar ugly and hard to use.
4. Sprawling, Deep Navigation Structure
Website design convention says you should keep everything within just a few clicks of the home page. Although it may be all technically be within the 4 click minimum, I’ve certainly wasted more than that hunting for an article or feature.
5. Non-intuitive Organization
Looking for D.C. area news? Just click on “Metro”. Except, if the story you’re looking for was published in an “Extra” section, you’ll need to hover over the “Local” button, click on “The Extras” (you better be a regular reader, as there’s nothing to explain what an “Extra” is), then click on your county. There you’ll find some local news, except any local news published in the metro section, or in the front page section, or the real estate section, or online discussions on local topics, etc, etc.
Interested in finding local columnist Marc Fisher’s blog? Unless you can remember his URL (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/), there are several options. If you are lucky, it’s one of the days the powers that be have chosen to post it on their homepage. If not, you can hover over “Local” and click on “Metro.” There will be a link to his blog there, except they only link to individual posts, so you’ll have to know it’s a blog. Another option? Hover over opinion, click on “columns&blogs.” Again, if you are luck they are “featuring” him, but chances are you will have to scroll down to a forest of huge pull-down menus, select “Metro & Education” then select Marc Fisher: Raw Fisher (you better know that’s the name of his blog). Did you count the clicks?
6. Feature Mania
Sponsored blogroll, mywashingtonpost.com, post points, slate, cityguide, traffic center, jobs, cars, real estate, school report cards, personalized alerts, day in photos, documentary video, etc, etc. WashingtonPost.com is a website for ever person at every point in their life, and each and every page contains hundreds of links to every other section reminding you of this fact.
7. Hidden Comments
Want to comment on a story? Sure, you are welcome to. Except the only people who will read it are the tiny percentage that will scroll below a “read more” box (sponsored by inform(tm)!) and click on the tiny text that says “view all comments.” By inviting comments before readers can see what others have left, they discourage the kind of conversations among readers that usually happen on blogs.
8. Express? Express Who?
They might be a wholly-owned subsidiary with a dedicated readership and original content, but the only way you’d find the Express website (or any other partner website, for that matter) is by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the homepage and clicking on “Express.” Again, you better be a local, because there’s nothing to tell you what it is.
9. The Most Viewed Mystery
Want to find a list of the “most viewed” articles? If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the tiny list (five articles only) on the side of some articles, or perhaps the tiny text box well below the fold on the homepage linking to a “20 most emailed list.” If you’re really lucky, you find this top 35 most viewed Metro articles list. What’s missing? An easy-to-find most popular page like the New York Times has.
10. Inconsistent Page Layout
The structure of the site’s various sections varies widely, and boxes containing features appear and reappear mysteriously. Even the layout of the ever-important main page varies day-to-day. Print journalists know the importance of perdictable layout to help readers find what they’re looking for – why this hasn’t translated into web design is a mystery to me.
What irks you? Or maybe you are one of the people that helped them win the “People’s Choice” Webby for best newspaper website in 2007?