The Independent’s long-overdue revamp of its website makes it obviously more visual and expansive at first glance. The content displayed ‘above the fold’on the homepage is focused on a large panel dedicated to one story. This includes an image of The Independent’s front page of the day, and provides an online equivalent of the ‘one big story’format of the print edition.
Next to it, the Editor’s Choice features a carousel of stories the user can scroll through. It gives the site a lot of flexibility to be topical. On an average day the four visible slots can be used to showcase breadth, but on a big news day all four could potentially cover the same major event.
Below the main story there are a series of panels with the headlines from topics like business, health, media and people. Each heading is accompanied by an RSS icon linking to individual sections feeds. This is a more prominent use of RSS than in the previous design. Content sections also include easy navigation to
sub-topics – sport, for example, has smaller links to football, rugby and golf above the headlines. Meanwhile, audio and video content on the site has a new home in the Sound & Vision section.
The redesign also places a renewed emphasis on The Independent’s opinion pieces. There is a large, visually-striking ‘Just posted’panel on the homepage featuring links to content from IndyBlogs, and a second panel below is dedicated to teasers from
opinion pieces. One of the nicest touches is to be found in the top right-hand corner, where a cryptic one-line teaser appears for an individual article.
The homepage also displays what has been popular with readers, and the user can view which stories have been read the most, emailed, and commented upon. Readers can add comments to individual stories.
Stories come equipped with buttons for readers to bookmark the page on Delicious, Digg, Facebook and StumbleUpon. Interestingly, although nearly every other news site places the buttons at the foot of a story, independent.co.uk puts them in a box-out at the top.
However much Janet Street-Porter might protest that she hates bloggers, the IndyBlogs site seems to have finally grasped the blogging nettle for the paper. It features a range of so far regularly updating blogs on defined niche topics and the intriguing ‘Open House’project.
One misgiving I have is that the blogs don’t feel tightly integrated into the site. Clicking ‘Have your say’underneath the main story launches IndyBlogs in a new window. It has a completely different page design, and the format of white and orange text on a black background is not the easiest to read on screen.
The Independent runs several microsites on different domains, including sites for their special offers, top 10 ‘best of’lists, and a music download store powered by 7digital.
You can’t help suspecting that the design team spent a long time using The Guardian, Times and Telegraph websites as they were putting the new independent.co.uk together. They seem to have taken some of the best bits of all those sites and rolled them into one.
Although not perfect, the redesign is a huge stride forward for the paper’s new media output, and a solid base to build on.