When visited links look unvisited
Something’s bothered me for a while about sun-sentinel.com’s links, and today I finally figured out what it is. The site’s CSS makes “active” links look like normal links rather than visited links. Let’s say I’m on the home page and I click a link to visit a story:
Now, after I’ve read the story, I use the browser’s back button to return to the front page, where the story I’ve just read does not appear to have been visited:
Only if I click elsewhere on the page, to “deactivate” the first link, does it properly change to the color for visited links:
This problem doesn’t seem to happen in Netscape browsers, but Internet Explorer apparently keeps links in the active state even after you leave the page and return. The Sun-Sentinel should change its style sheets so active links have the same color as visited links — or another color entirely — but not the same color as unvisited links.
Al Jazeera article pages are IE-only
Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel, introduced an English-language Web site several weeks ago, after the United States invaded Iraq. Repeated hacking and DNS failures kept the site initially inaccessible. The site returned, but it still only works for readers using Internet Explorer.
The problem is on the site’s article pages, where all of the body text is buried inside a hidden
INPUT field, then copied into a
Iraq maps: Why reinvent the scrollbar?
During the war with Iraq, many online news sites used interactive maps to display troop movements and battles. I won’t attempt to evaulate the accuracy of these graphics — Eric Meyer and Rex Sorgatz discussed that March 27 on the online-news list — but I do want to discuss the interfaces they used. While print designers regularly created large full-page graphics, online producers were challenged to compress lots of information into the lowest common denominator of 800x600 screen resolution. Some sites invented unique navigation systems for their Flash-based maps rather than using conventions their readers probably already understand, like scrollbars.
CNN.com’s troop movements map is one of the least intuitive. It tells readers to “use the small map below to move around the large map”:
Nytimes.com’s map uses a slider to zoom in and out on a map originally designed for print:
But the text, which shrinks and grows too, is quite difficult to read at some zoom settings. I also found myself regularly having to drag and recenter to read some blocks of text cut off at a margin.
Washingtonpost.com’s day in review map does use a vertical scrollbar, which in my mind is a better interface because people already know how to use it. Readers click icons on the map for text, which appears in a separate area:
But since the Post does not have an overly complicated map like CNN and it doesn’t put text on the map itself like the Times, I’m curious why there is a scrollbar at all. The same information — the base map and the clickable icons — could shrink and display acceptably on an 800x600 screen without scrolling. This is the approach used in usatoday.com’s map, latimes.com’s map, and msnbc.com’s map. Like the Washington Post, all of these maps put their text in a separate area off to the side.
But putting these clickable icons in one place and the text they show somewhere else is not very intuitive either. Readers have to shift focus from one portion of the graphic to another to read the text. Sometimes it’s not even obvious enough that clicking the icon has done anything. The best interface I’ve seen is on the csmonitor.com’s map, which displays “tooltip”-type text when you roll over:
One of the things I like most about working in online news is the fact that the medium is still young enough to require a lot of experimentation — we don’t really know yet what the ideal design is for standard article pages, let alone interactive graphics and multimedia. The number of detailed, professional-looking maps produced on deadline is evidence of how much online journalism has grown in a few years. But we need to learn from our experimentation rather than just using Flash for Flash’s sake. A regular static map is superior to some of these “interactive” interfaces.
How not to change your URL
The Palm Beach Post’s Web edition recently moved from portal site gopbi.com onto its own domain, PalmBeachPost.com.
Gopbi.com/partners/pbpost/ now correctly redirects, but gopbi.com/pbpost/ — where the newspaper’s home page also was previously available — does not. Rather than a redirect, gopbi.com/pbpost/ gives you a “page not found” error. Bad idea, when there are some sites (not very many, but a few) that link to the now-broken URL. The Post ought to have a redirect on all its old URLs.
The site’s new URL scheme has some odd behavior too. Palmbeachpost.com/sports/ displays another error message. Palmbeachpost.com/sports/content/ displays the home page’s content under a “sports” header. Only palmbeachpost.com/sports/content/sports/ actually gives the sports page. Such URLs are a poor choice, being neither short nor hackable nor tease-from-print-able.
At the Las Vegas Review Journal, the “Latest News from the Associated Press” is nowhere to be found:
At The (New York) Journal News, the only “War with Iraq” news appears to be a set of editorial cartoons and a Baghdad time clock that doesn’t work:
And at Tampa Bay Online, the lead photo is missing and there is no “ongoing coverage from the wire”:
<noscript> section of HTML, such as a link to a separate page with those headlines:
<noscript><a href="http://customwire.ap.org/lineups/IRAQ-bulleted.html">Iraq news from the Associated Press</a></noscript>