Hold The Front Page describe it as a “modernised and revamped look”. Really? As Keri Davies put it: “ugh, what a mess”. Alex Lockwood: “looks like shoveldesign – can barely see the ‘Lancashire’ on the logo; national news more imp. than local comment?” John Thompson: “Too much noise and everything in three columns. Lead stories should run across two colums Text too small in places.”
Comments on the page outlining the relaunch of the Lancashire Telegraph are invariably negative. ‘Eckythump’, a local web designer, was particularly detailed:
The site is slow, the comments forms don’t always appear and the general layout is poor. In particular the choice of pale grey text over a pale blue background is very bad for anyone with a visual impairment – have you considered SENDA compliance and accessibility standards?
The old site worked better than this and generated far more interaction. The number of comments I can see on the new site is a fraction of those on the old one. In particular the old site allowed registered users to post without having to perform the ‘type what you see’ stage. Now we have to register and perform this step. Hardly making the site user friendly. The old site needed speeding up, not this poor redeign.
The site seems to be more about maximising advertising exposure than genuine interaction with your readers.
And there’s the rub: Newsquest still appear to be treating their websites as products, not services; content, not platforms. What are the “major” changes announced by the Lancashire Telegraph? Commenters have to register, navigation is now horizontal rather than vertical; and some sections have moved.
Credit where it’s due: The Lancashire Telegraph were an early adopter of hyperlocal and in particular are successfully pioneering the use of mobile. They have very well organised photo galleries and a generous and considered video section, with but Dave Lee wonders if the new homepage is flexible enough to allow a video to be used in place of the lead picture (see comment 1). All videos also come with a frustrating 15 second pre-roll advertising that becomes repetitive – and you wonder how readers feel about ads being placed on video they have submitted to the site (or, for that matter, how advertisers feel). Time to tell advertisers about interactive overlays.
The articles retain some nods to the web 2.0 age – bookmarking/sharing/email to a friend; related links; and ‘Ways to get involved’ (where “Register to post comments” hardly makes it sound like they’re keen to hear your thoughts).
On the homepage there is the now expected ‘most read/commented’ table and if you keep scrolling you’ll see some hints of the quality within – including a potentially wonderful ‘Local information’ search that readers will easily miss in the ‘blind’ ad-ridden third column. Shouldn’t this be right at the top, next to site search?
Perhaps an Ajax-driven interface where readers could drag and drop modules to form their own page could bring some much-needed order to it all. On the whole this seems like a missed opportunity which, having had the advantage of waiting until after relaunches from Northcliffe and Trinity Mirror, still comes out looking worse.