By: Jay DeFoore
With the start of the new year comes a smart new look for Statesman.com and Austin360.com, the Web sites operated by Cox Newspapers’ Austin American-Statesman.
According to an explanatory note written by Jim Debth, the Statesman’s Internet GM, the changes are meant to “make the site less cluttered and easier to navigate, and put a much greater emphasis on content you can’t get in the daily newspaper — news video, and blogs from our staff and readers.”
As is quickly become the industry standard, both sites make the switch to horizontal navigation, which reduces clutter and offers a cleaner, wider, and more modern look that acknowledges the bigger and higher-resolution monitors now common.
Further signs of the times include an RSS button across the top of the page and a helpful “Most Popular Stories” sidebar on article pages.
Another change users will notice is the increased visibility of classified tabs across the top of the sites. (With competition from free classified destinations like Craigslist eating into the newspapers? bottom lines, better integration of classifieds into newspaper sites will likely become a priority in the near future.) On the home pages, the classified buttons appear in the upper left, and once a user drills down into an article page, the main classified categories (car, homes, jobs, etc.) appear as navigation tabs across the top right.
The tab metaphor is also put to good use at the top left of the sites to allow users to easily switch between the newsy Statesman.com and the entertainment-focused Austin360.com.
That redesign also includes larger ad sizes, a shorter screen that decreases the need for scrolling, and searchable TV listings on Austin360.com that users can customize to specific neighborhoods and cable or satellite providers.
Photo and video galleries on the sites aim to make multimedia features easier to find, and a “What?s Inside Today” section aims to point users to the most important content in the main sections.
To aid users in the transition to the new sites, the Statesman’s online team created a “Where Did it Go?” index with new URLs.
As with every redesign, the Statesman team has no doubt received its share of angry e-mails. A note posted on the site said “several dozen” readers quickly complained that the text size is too small.
The note offers advice on how to change the font size through browser preferences, and failing that, promises that the team is working to add “S, M, L” buttons on the home pages, section fronts and article pages.