Not another ‘virtual newspaper’…

Remember when newspaper editors thought it was impressive to have a virtual version of their newspaper, turning pages and all? Remember how no one read them?

Well it seems the same mistakes are being made all over again by Arabic daily newspaper An-Nahar.

The newspaper now features a Flash version of itself – complete with a virtual desk littered with virtual pencil, magnifying glass and, er, CD.

An Nahar

It has to be one of the most elaborate, confusing and pointless pieces of newspaper design I’ve ever seen.

You can imagine the conversation:

“Click on the pencil and you can move it over the paper, see? And you can ‘highlight’ stuff. Well, yes, actually when you try to highlight stuff you get an uncontrollable red scrawl not unlike that of a deranged two-year-old… but it’s just like real life!

“And the coffee cup tips over when you click it! Oh we laughed and laughed when we spent all afternoon getting that to work. In fact, we loved it so much we spent twice as long on the mobile phone that changes wallpaper.”

And the magnifying glass? If you designed a newspaper so badly that everyone needed a magnifying glass, would you be proud?

Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen is widely known for his opinions on the weaknesses of Flash (he’s also written on the problem of using physical metaphors for navigation).

Flash tempts people to reinvent graphical user interfaces, confusing users (check.) It is expensive to create and maintain, and sucks up valuable resources that can be better spent on core services (check.) It presents problems for internationalising and localising content (well, I can’t read the content, so I’m guessing here).

What else? Oh yes, you can’t email it to a friend, or bookmark it, or even copy and paste from it. And it’s not searchable, which also means it presents accessibility issues, and that search engines are less likely to rank it highly.

In short, it’s a dud.

Amazingly, however, the original newspaper website does have podcasts, widgets, photo galleries, mobile services and RSS feeds. With that sort of web literacy, why on earth did they feel the need to go all virtual?

Thanks to Tuuli Platner for the lead.

3 thoughts on “Not another ‘virtual newspaper’…

  1. paulbradshaw Post author

    I say beware of patronising them because they’re not in a Western country. The podcasts etc. demonstrate that they are already innovating – so it’s not a case of some innovation or none.


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