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Media Website Analysis – NPR 4 May 2010

Posted by elisemchisholm in Media.
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I’ve selected the four websites below for my genre analysis. The first three are extensions of traditional media outlets, and the last – Talking Points Memo (TPM) – originated online.

  • Forbes Blogs: community of business and financial blogs
  • WSJ: features on leaders in industry, sports, fashion, and art
  • NPR: news and entertainment content
  • TPM: analysis of politics and government

I’ve evaluated the aesthetics of six factors that I consider part of a positive online media experience: branding, typography, imagery, layout, interactivity, and search. Obviously, quality of content is also critically important, but I won’t tackle that topic here.

NPR

Branding:

  • All four websites feature bold logos in the upper left-hand corner of their home pages.
  • NPR’s brand positioning would be stronger if a tagline were included. While one can deduce that the website is affiliated with a public radio broadcast, an immediate identifier would be helpful to new visitors. WSJ and the Forbes Blogs both feature taglines on their home pages.

Rank: #3

Typography:

  • NPR uses serif fonts for headlines and sans-serif fonts for body copy. TPM does the opposite. WSJ uses mostly serif fonts while the Forbes Blogs use mostly sans-serif fonts.
  • NPR’s black and gray typefaces are easy to read on its white background, and highlighted and underlined links encourage click-through. The same is true of TPM, WSJ, and the Forbes Blogs.

Rank: #1

Imagery:

  • At present, NPR features one striking image in the upper left-hand corner. This is the only image above the fold, which gives the user cues about the hierarchy of information. Forbes and WSJ have taken similar strategies. TPM, on the other hand, has placed its most prominent image on the right-hand side of the home page.

Rank: #1

Layout:

  • NPR’s layout is clean; content is neatly divided into three columns of equal width and there’s plenty of white space. At a quick glance, I’m able to understand the hierarchy of information.
  • NPR also features a top navigation menu. Headings include: Home, News, Arts & Live, Music, Programs, Listen, Hourly News, and Podcasts. I find this navigation style very easy to follow. A breadcrumb trail also helps me backtrack.
  • Additionally, ad placements on NPR are prominent yet unobtrusive.

Rank: #1

Interactivity:

  • NPR provides relatively easy access to the following from its home page: RSS, Recommendations, Commenting, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Newsletters, Podcasts, Video, and Mobile. WSJ, the Forbes Blogs, and TPM offer similar options for interactivity. In my opinion, WSJ’s execution is best.

Rank: #2

Search:

  • NPR’s search layout is the most user-friendly among the four websites. The top three results appear above the fold and there are numerous ways to sort and narrow each search. This makes it extremely easy to find specific content.

Rank: #1

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