I’ve got to get this off my chest … what is the point of a newspaper’s website if you can’t find the news?
Case in point — the Detroit Free Press. specifically their sports page.
I am an unabashed fan of Michigan State University and follow the Spartans’ football and basketball teams particularly. It is now time for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the MSU Spartans will be playing their first game later today. What time is the game? Well, that’s a pretty obvious question and the answer should be easy to find. Right?
Wrong, if you go to the Detroit Free Press website. Not too long ago, the website was dramatically changed from a newspaper format (stories written with words, a photo, an occasional video) into a multimedia conglomeration of pictures in motion. Looking for words to read? Not here. Want to get a detailed background on an issue? Prepare to do some trial-and-error clicking.
Want to find out what time a game starts? Hah! Fool! Why are you looking at the Free Press’ website?
What should be an obvious location — a newspaper’s sports section — turns into a hopeless waste of 15 minutes that are now lost forever. The website offers videos of people talking about the teams, background on players who used to live in their opponent’s home state, recaps of the coach’s history in the tournament. But what time is the game on?
I abandoned the Free Press’ website and turned to Google — “ncaa basketball tournament” — and on the first page of search results is a list of the whole schedule to date. Scan down the page and there’s the game — and the time of the game. Well, that was easy.
I try Yahoo! Sports — and there at the top of the page is a list of today’s upcoming games — with the time of each game.
You know … useful information, easily found, prominently displayed. Like … like … news.
So why can’t the Free Press put together a website in which news is easily found, prominently displayed?
When a website is designed, it has to be thought of in terms of why people come to the site — do they go to a newspaper website to be entertained? I don’t — I go to a news site to get news, quickly, reliably, easily, without doing an lot of research.
The Detroit Free Press — and their partner and parent sites, like USA Today, Detroit News, and others in the “family” — have badly mangled their web sites. The sites are unusable. Traipsing through them in search of news is an exercise in masochism.
The only rationale I can imagine is this — these websites are designed to drive people back to physical newspapers. But my bet is that the papers are designed by the same people.