I still like newspapers, but rarely purchase the actual papers anymore. When I do, I choose the Chicago Sun-Times. It’s a tabloid format, so it’s easier to deal with than the enormous Chicago Tribune. My two favorite columnists, Richard Roeper and Robert Feder, write for the Sun-Times, which helps.
My bugaboo comes with the Sun-Times’ site. It’s pretty bad. First, try to locate a search box on the front page. Surprise! Those forms up top, where search boxes should be, are a login for the free email service (oh boy). And along the side you’ll find you can search almost every damn thing on the web except for the site you’re on! What’s up with that?
The internal pages are pretty basic. The Columnist page, for instance, is a metaindex to all of those people who write in the Sun-Times. Great. They’re also organized only by paper section and not alphabetically. It’d be a nice option, don’t you think? Then there’s the whole issue of denoting new columns – just an asterisk next to the columnist’s name. Very, very basic. Tell me more. Sell me the article.
The biggest problem with the site, though, might be the lack of permanent archives of any kind. URLs only work for a few weeks and then disappear without a trace, or in some instances, point to incorrect articles (imagine the fun in that!) While I don’t expect the Sun-Times to keep a mammoth, 30-year archive of articles online, at least do something to acknowledge that people will link to your pages. Give me a polite error, tell me to buy it (like the Chicago Tribune does with old articles), whatever. Fix it.
It’s a shame, because I like the Sun-Times so much. Their site is crap.
On the entirely other side of the fence is the International Herald Tribune. What an absolutely gorgeous site! The interface was done solely with the reader in mind, and it shows. You can clip articles, search from anywhere, and page through texts easily. Font size and number of columns are up to you, not the designer.
All in all, it’s the exception to the rule that newspaper sites suck. -pm
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