By: Graham Webster
The New York Times today launched the first step in a two-month long series of incremental changes to NYTimes.com aimed at improving load times, ad placements, and navigation throughout the site.
Visitors to the site starting today noticed roomier text spacing, new layouts, and new navigation options on individual article pages.
“Ultimately the article page is central to what we do,” Eliot Pierce, the product manager for NYTimes.com who headed the redesign, told E&P. “A large percentage of our traffic is on our article pages.”
Many news Web sites increasingly see visitors coming straight into article pages, often from news portal sites such as Google News and Yahoo News, from blogs, or from RSS aggregators. That means some visitors don’t see the ads on the front page and don’t have as many opportunities to click into other parts of the site.
“They may not always be seeing everything that we’re wanting them to see,” Pierce said.
The new design adds a “Go to Section” menu at the top of the page that drops down when you move your mouse over it, revealing links to all of the site’s top-level section pages. There’s a horizontal navigation bar of links to major subsections of the site. Those pages, Pierce said, had not been getting as much traffic as editors would like. And new graphic-based links to individual articles have been added to the bottom of article pages.
The changes also give new positions to the same basic ad sizes, including prominent placement for half-page and skycraper ads on the right side of the screen and a location for horizontal ads between two of the new navigation elements.
Also among the changes:
? The article page now expands to fit the full width of the window.
? The design of the page is fully controlled through cascading stylesheets (CSS), “which makes the page much lighter,” Pierce said. CSS also has allowed the site to deliver a simplified layout to older browsers, keeping the content readable.
? Photos and other elements that were formerly placed on the right side have been moved to the left, separating them from the advertising column on the right.
? The numbers used to navigate to multi-page articles are larger.
? Breaking news alerts will now appear above the headline on article pages, not just on the front page.
? The “Most E-mailed Articles” feature got more screen real estate and added a choice between the last 24 hours’ top articles and the top picks from the past week.
? There is a new “Help” link in the “Welcome/Log In” area, and a “Contact Us” link in the footer.
The new layout does, however, introduce some rendering problems in at least one older browser. Informed that a reporter was viewing the site with an out-of-date Mac operating system, Pierce laughed, “I’m sorry about that. We’re working on fixing that.”