Philly.com website critique

The website of the Philidelphia Inquirer, Philly.com, is now added to my list of news sites to visit regularly. The site has a pleasing design with good structure, color and flow. I will briefly discuss the layout of the website and the pros and cons therein.
Upon opening Philly.com, I was pleasantly surprised. The colors, various shades of burgundy, are pleasing to the eye and a welcome change from the typical blues of news sites. The front page is cleanly laid out with three columns and a large navigation bar along the top.
There is a short, contrasting navigation bar for the associated sites with the Philidelphia Inquirer (the host newspaper). Beneath that, the Philly.com logo is perfect in size and whimsical. The sites banner also hosts a weather widget which blends well and perfectly utilizes the white space.
A clear navigation area for subscribers blends well with the site and is self-explanatory for the user. Other sites tend to bury this information but Philly.com handles it well.
The websites search function has a lot of options. Once you put in your search term and click site search, it gives you the most recent articles associated with your term. Users then have the option to narrow down the search, either by type of information you are looking for: Articles, Blogs, Images, etc., or through an advanced search. This function is far better than I have seen in other news pages and is a definite plus for Philly.com.
Navigation is excellent. The site has a very clearly defined navigation bar with their most important sections. Each section has a drop down menu, when moused over, giving further options for the most important news stories of the day, a table of contents, and blog listings.
Unfortunately, this navigation bar is inconsistent once you move into individual sections which I will go into a little later.
The style and design of the front page works well for a news site. The breaking or most important news is forefront with a photo and large headline.
The hierarchy is clear in story important with differences in headline size and photos. Features get a large photo and are on a slideshow giving the readers options on which to read. Secondary articles have a smaller headline with a thumbnail and quote or subhead, and the least important get a headline link.
The front page also hosts a photo gallery section, which is thankfully clear of the “fake” advertisement galleries.
Sections at the bottom cover entertainment, sports and business with associated articles. There is also a blogs and features section and some video.
Overall the front page is well designed, easy to navigate and full of interesting and relevant information. Videos do not automatically play and are built into the page so buffer times are short.
The one negative would be the ads. When I first pulled up the site, they were hardly noticeable. Upon a second viewing, a large and gaudy ad filled the far right column. A banner ad of contrasting colors also caught the eye. These ads tend to be the first place your eye goes, when visiting, but the overall site design helps the reader to bypass the ads quickly.
The individual section pages are where we start to find some issues. Sports, food, and health all have their own page designs. They do not have a Philly.com navigation bar, but their own individual section navigation to fit in with their page designs. The design is not consistent with the Philly.com and breaks up the flow of the overall site.
In order to get back to the Philly.com homepage from any of the section pages, you can click on the Philly.com logo. The problem with this is that the logo is never in the same place on each individual page. This requires the user to hunt for the logo if they want to go back to the front page and have the standard navigation options.
The site utilizes social media on its individual stories, but not on the front page. There is the option Google +1 and Facebook Likes. The stories have a comments tally, so you can see how many have been made on a story. There is also the option to tweet a story, share on social media, and print the story out.
Comments are in a conversational style layout and have a like/don’t like flag option. Registration is required for the site, which I always believe is a good idea. This does not allow for anonymous commenting and limits trolling of news stories.
There is no pay wall for Philly.com, though they do ask that you register with the site. Registration gives the users access to additional news stories, a newsletter and various contests. Registration is still free.
With only a few flaws, I think that Philly.com is a very good example of what a news site should look like. For those who are looking for a less severe page to visit, it is a good option to get local and national news. The overall site design is pleasing and generally easy to navigate. It’s only major flaw is the section pages, but the problems are not so egregious to chase users away.

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