Display as navigation

Doing some inspiration harvesting this afternoon, I discovered that The Spokesman Review has really slick topical pages. I’m impressed with the incorporation of a navigation element into the display of the text. The image above is from the tag page for “environment”; the tag itself, however, is within an input box that the reader can manipulate. Deleting the word and then typing a new one generates a live-updating menu of all the available tags with that text. In my opinion, this design approach makes more of the page useful to and malleable by the reader. Being able to filter results by content type is also a progressive feature, although I think it would be more useful if the default were “All content.”

When navigation functionality like this becomes a part of the design, a website can become exponentially more useful to the reader.


Ryan Pitts July 5, 2009 Reply

Glad you like those tag pages – they’re one of my favorite things on the site. They’re great as topical archives for sure, and I love how they bring together all content types. That’s a good thought you mention about making the default view collect all types into one column.

We’ve also found that they’re really useful for quickly creating homes for breaking news coverage. Send out a staff message to “tag everything with FOO” and you’ve got an instant FOO page, with all types of content and items hitting that page as soon as anyone posts something. Point readers at that page and you’ve got something efficient and timely.

I’d love to hear any other thoughts you have about the site. I feel like there’s quite a bit of improvement I could make in exposing some of these features to readers (as well as just tightening things up overall). For instance, on pages like our Today page, if you click the little calendar icon above the headline list, it’s really easy to jump to any day in our archive. But people don’t necessarily find that tool. Not sure they explore the functionality of their profile pages either, with “favorite” tags that create a custom news feed for you.

Anything else you found that we could be doing better, or exposing better?

Daniel July 5, 2009 Reply

Oh man, I’ve got so many ideas for you. Definitely stoked to see a newspaper actually innovating with their website 🙂 I’ll try to lay out a few right now and will come back to this when I have the chance.

Another thought for the tag page: there should be a way to visually distinguish between the “search” mentality versus the “browsing” mentality. In my mind, they’re two different approaches to finding information. The “browse” view is the more newspaper-y approach of laying out the stories, some with images, some without, such that it’s more pleasing to browse through. “Search”, which is another use of tag pages, is presenting the information such that it’s really easy to parse through a lot of it. With this two-tiered approach, you could easily have the pages fulfill the functionality they have now while, at the same time, offering the opportunity to make a more “traditional” landing page for any topic in the system.

Two more thoughts for tag pages: What if you could get the reporters to include a 140 character summary of the article such that those showed up on the more search style pages? Also, what if they also pulled in links to content not within the Spokesman website? I’m thinking Flickr, Twitter, or I might have a Publish2 angle for you.

In regards to getting your readers to use the features, that’s the other big question. I think it really has to do with client education on the value of the tool/functionality. Personally, I’ve found that videos and screencasts are really useful communication tools for educating people who are interested enough to watch the video when they come across it.

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