Bad web practices: 50% ads, 10% news

I stumbled onto this article this week. I have family and friends who would use the M11 on a regular basis so wanted to check out the details from a tweet that mentioned a crash on the M11. I was surprised by the content of this page so I decided to quickly colour in the various sections of the page as the actual content was surprisingly brief compared to the weight of the page.

I coloured them by:

  • Content – [red] – the article that I was actually looking for
  • Navigation – [purple] – links to other pages on the site / social links
  • Ads – [green] – content that leads to external sites
  • Related stories – [yellow] – other news articles on the same site

Southend Standard content type comparison

Here’s a link to the original post – http://www.southendstandard.co.uk/news/9486732.11_car_pile_up_on_M11/?ref=rss&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

What struck me as surprising about this was:

  1. the percentage of ad content on the page
  2. the lack of actual story

I’m not saying that I always have a story to tell and sometimes even I can be superficial when it comes to posting content online, but surely in instances like this where there is a need from the user to view an important news article then that content should take visual priority in some way? Here’s a few thoughts on how news sites could handle this sort of situation.

A simple template for short stories

Reduce the ad space and related article content when there’s only a short piece of information about an event or situation. This would allow the user to see immediately the info that they were after. I’m guessing that an unlikely user journey will be arriving on a page to check out some breaking news only to remember that they’re actually looking for a second hand car and leave the site via a banner ad. Surely we all know by now that user experience and relevancy is more important than ad impressions?

Make news content stand out

We’re used to seeing this happen in reverse such as when you click an image on a blog and the page dims, the image grows and comes into focus. This same method could be applied to all content from external links. This would mean that people who are not used to the layout of your site would immediately be focused on the content that the link they clicked promised them. Having this work on a timer would be acceptable.

There’s many situations on the web where a template simply isn’t used for it’s intended purpose and content management tools sometimes are not able to deal with these scenarios for us. But I do think that web authors need to be more thoughtful about the user.

Feel free to post your own thoughts and solutions to this problem below. Also, any links to blog posts and websites of mine where i’m contradicting myself will be appreciated.

Published by Spooner

Creative Technologist at Microsoft in the UK working in the Developer & Platform Evangelism group, he is at the forefront of emerging technologies being developed across Microsoft and champions their deployment to developers and digital agencies. His work is focused around mobile, the web and Natural User Interfaces.

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