Fresh off the back of successful launches of Tech & Sport Leader platforms, the Mail & Guardian online has gone live with a fresh design.
I was tipped off by Vincent Maher and had a little discussion about what they’ve changed and why. It’s clear one of the main areas of focus was content as it should be in a news site. This news site seems to pack in loads more content and fits it all in comfortably.
Usability with a splash of Ajax
Being able to quickly access the type of content you’re looking for is important for a site of this size, and with a nice little ajax slide down you can click right through to just about any part of the site through a hidden menu.
Further down the page the sliding menu of top stories is quite effective though it could help being higher up on the page.
Tabs are used in the sidebar for the “Leader Platforms” and an even more interesting tabbed tag clouds section which allows you to browse popular tags by tag, people and places. It all makes for an adventurous journey through what’s happening in the world around us.
Personalisation is very much a part of it
The login panel is also revealed nice & smoothly through some quick & easy ajax, something I need to apply to a few areas of my own site when I have some time.
Signing up and logging in gives you access to some nifty features like printing multiple stories for research purposes, or following the history of a particular issue and checking out your last accessed story.
I’ve only spent about 20 odd minutes on the site, but can already see some heavy thought and research has gone into what features to add, how to add them and how to tie them all together.
Thinking about Semantics & reader history
I can’t wait for the newly planned feature of suggesting new content based on previous reader history. The site is making a serious move towards the new web in a very understated manner. No flashy frills but lots of power under the hood.
Aesthetics, Branding & User Interface
I initially felt the brand had been lost and that the design could do with a little neatening up, but it seems even this has been researched and considered. Many times designs that are too neat and orderly can become a little dead.
I do however feel that what has been established on Thought, Tech & the other “Leader” website’s has been lost a little on this one. I still feel there is a little room to tighten up the user interface, but it’s a work in motion and I’ve already made a few suggestions like increasing padding very slightly.
Extending in all directions
Something which the M&G online has focused heavily on is diversifying it’s offering. From one starting point the reader can venue off in so many directions depending on their interest and need at any given time. Beside’s the blogs and leader platforms, there are a wide range of offshoots which keeps interest going.
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All in all G&M online have created a space where diverse need are catered for in an intricately woven online space. I’d probably do a few things differently, but this has been a ,mammoth task and it’s always easier criticising from the sidelines.