Latimes.com Redesign - No Link Colors

13 Aug 2009 - 9:00am
5 years ago
18 replies
10480 reads
Steven Johnson
2009

The new L.A. Times web redesign launched last night.

IA-wise, it's basically the same site, but the look-and-feel more
strongly embraces the print idiom (e.g., Georgia font).

I feel like the big news is that they've dropped link colors from
headlines, nav, etc.

Latimes.com is my alma mater (1999-2006), and I now also teach web
publishing at Annenberg School of Journalism at USC.

I'd really like to get some feedback on the redesign from the
IxD/UED community to bring back to the J-school and print publishing
worlds.

Please have a look: http://www.latimes.com/

Thanks.

Comments

13 Aug 2009 - 9:58am
Mike Myles
2009

I can't distinguish link text from static text unless I painstakingly
mouse over the whole page. What were they thinking!?

- Make out website look like a news paper, because we're a news
paper company.

- News papers don't have hyperlinks.

- Don't show hyperlinks on our website.

I think someone at the LA Times needs to do a quick CSS tweak.

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13 Aug 2009 - 10:28am
bill fraser
2009

It's a little disconcerting at first, but by now I know where the
links will be in a news site, so I naturally mouse to the appropriate
spots, and the underlines immediately come into view to confirm my
choices. It's an interesting concept. Keeps the news looking like a
newspaper.

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13 Aug 2009 - 11:13am
William Hudson
2009

Steven -

I don't recall the previous site although I have visited it from
time-to-time. I agree that the current design looks much more print
based (being primarily black!), but the inability for users to easily
spot links slightly worries me. I know that most will work it out, but
my own feeling is that playing hide-and-seek with the mouse is only fun
for so long. I would much rather that people could quickly and
accurately mark all the links on a screen shot, without having to
mouse-around looking for them. Having said that, they are being fairly
consistent in making headings links, but their occasional use of colour
is sometimes for a link ('photos' for example) and sometimes for other
reasons ('7:30 am'). It's pretty, but not good UX design, albeit at a
micro level.

Regards,

William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
World +44-1235-522859
US Toll Free 1-866-SYNTAGM
mailto:william.hudson at syntagm.co.uk
http://www.syntagm.co.uk
skype:williamhudsonskype

Syntagm is a limited company registered in England and Wales (1985).
Registered number: 1895345. Registered office: 10 Oxford Road, Abingdon
OX14 2DS.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: new-bounces at ixda.org [mailto:new-bounces at ixda.org] On Behalf Of
> Steven Johnson
> Sent: 13 August 2009 8:00 AM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Latimes.com Redesign - No Link Colors

13 Aug 2009 - 11:27am
Neil Cadsawan
2008

While we all can give our collective opinions on this redesign, what
I'd like to know is if they did any testing on their design before
it went live. Maybe they discovered that their users didn't have
any issues with no colors or underlines on links. Maybe they didn't
do any testing and will now be inundated with emails. Maybe someone
has contacts there and can find out?

>From a design standpoint, I love the graphic of the inkblot at the
bottom of the footer.

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13 Aug 2009 - 12:21pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Aug 13, 2009, at 9:13 AM, William Hudson wrote:

> I agree that the current design looks much more print
> based (being primarily black!), but the inability for users to easily
> spot links slightly worries me.

More than 90% of the content on the home page is a link. What's the
point of adding underlines to everything when nearly everything is
clickable?

I think the redesign is great. And now the major media companies have
all finally gotten on the bandwagon to bring structured, clean graphic
design back in fashion. It's about time.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Chief Design Officer, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

13 Aug 2009 - 2:58pm
Anonymous

I have to agree with Andrei on this one. The home page looks nice and
clean and readable. It also happens to be almost all links. If you
filter into an actual article you will see that the links are
actually called out in a different color. Take this article for
example:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-clunkers14-2009aug14,0,6884703.story

In it you see there is a link to cars.gov which is in blue. If
everything on the home page is understandably linkable then I don't
expect it to all be in a bright blue color but instead readable. I
think the one thing they could have done is maybe make those one or
two intro lines for the one or two stories that are not links on the
page links but at that point, who really cares. The headline and the
picture are linking to the story so does it really matter.

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13 Aug 2009 - 3:19pm
j.scot
2008

A particular area I find awkward is the traffic page. Was it like this
before the redesign? The size of the page's primary content prevents
it from fitting "above the fold" -- you have to scroll to see the
bottom of the iFrame, and even then you still have to scroll on the
iFrame to see all of what's in it. I get that it's syndicated
content, but... surely there's a better way.

I like the revised look, and don't mind the lack of colored links,
but can't wait to hear whether they did testing.

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13 Aug 2009 - 6:46pm
susandoran
2010

echoing Neil Cadsawan....would love to know about LAT's user research
and testing efforts!

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13 Aug 2009 - 2:23pm
Jason Pamental
2008

Andrei,

I have to disagree. Your point can be taken on the home page, but
what about every other page of the site? That's where I think it's
even more problematic. When you go to an interior page they carry the
same design through, and then the percentage of non-linked body copy
to other links is the other way around (90% non-linked), making it
much harder to find links. (and what about links within the stories
themselves? any cues there?)

>From a usability perspective, it seems to me that this is a huge
drawback. Even milliseconds spent figuring out where to click can
have a hugely detrimental affect on the usability (or even just the
perceived usability) of a web site. There are enough ways to balance
clean design while maintaining visual cues that this just seems like
the wrong answer.

As mentioned above though, it would be REALLY interesting to see some
user testing data of the site with and without visual cues in the
design.

Cheers,

Jason

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16 Aug 2009 - 9:33pm
Diana Wynne
2008

I love it. Black text is so much more legible than all that other noise.

It's a newspaper, not an e-commerce site: the point is to read the
articles, not to be distractedly clicking links mid sentence like
Wikipedia. Rollovers are subtle but discoverable.

Not so sure about the red italics for unimportant update info,
although I like the blue for offsite links.

A side note that I recently discovered the learn more ? balloon on the
NYTimes website. Click and drag to select text, and a ? appears,
allowing you to search on the term in a secondary window.
(Unfortunately the default is to search Answers.com, but you can
switch it to the NYTimes archive.) They've added metadata to links, so
you get a help balloon that might say "learn more" or it might say
"links to an Iraqi blog on elections." It doesn't work on the home
page, only on the articles.

Very subtle. Maybe like the LA Times, a little too subtle for some
tastes. But I hope a sign of where we're headed, if the main print
journalism sources survive the next decade.

Diana

On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM, Steven
Johnson<steven.johnson at disney.com> wrote:
> The new L.A. Times web redesign launched last night.
>
> IA-wise, it's basically the same site, but the look-and-feel more
> strongly embraces the print idiom (e.g., Georgia font).
>
> I feel like the big news is that they've dropped link colors from
> headlines, nav, etc.
>
> Latimes.com is my alma mater (1999-2006), and I now also teach web
> publishing at Annenberg School of Journalism at USC.
>
> I'd really like to get some feedback on the redesign from the
> IxD/UED community to bring back to the J-school and print publishing
> worlds.
>
> Please have a look: http://www.latimes.com/
>
> Thanks.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

16 Aug 2009 - 10:16pm
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

I think this is a big point.

> On Aug 16, 2009, at 7:33 PM, Diana Wynne wrote:
> Rollovers are subtle but discoverable.

Not that they're subtle and not that one can find them - no, the big
point is that they're 'discoverable'.

That word is important, because I think Diana hit on something: the
redesign requires one to linger and explore and take it all in.

It is most certainly -not- ecommerce, and I don't even think they were
going for quick information news. Heck if you want that, go to any RSS
reader.

No, what they've created here is the same sensation one gets while
sipping a cup of coffee and watching the sun sneak into the kitchen in
the morning while browsing through the paper. Except this time on a
laptop.
Same coffee, same kitchen, same morning sunrise. Same reading
sensation. Different medium.

Kudos latimes.com, kudos.

17 Aug 2009 - 8:33am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 16, 2009, at 10:33 PM, Diana Wynne wrote:

> A side note that I recently discovered the learn more ? balloon on
> the NYTimes website.

Here's the thing that so many people don't understand about
"usability" - it's a sliding scale. Interactions can be intuitive or
immediately obvious, predictable, discoverable, learnable, etc. all
the way down to none of these, which results in unusable.

In the case of LAT, well, perhaps we have evolved, or started to
evolve to the point where we don't need to underline links anymore. If
they are put in a predictable location, then perhaps that's good
enough. Only time will tell and I can tell you having worked with LAT
in the past, I'm sure they're tracking this stuff.

As a side note, let's not forget that our brains can evolve and map to
new interactions. We've gone from hammering out letters on stones, to
typewriters, to desktops, to laptops, to pocket Macs. Anyone remember
the 3.5" disk drives? 5.25" floppies?

The no link colors is a gamble, but perhaps that's what we need for
the web to evolve. After all, the Internet was a bit of a gamble to
begin with.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

17 Aug 2009 - 2:41pm
Will Hacker
2009

You would hope a company as large as Tribune Co. would have performed
user testing on the site before it launched the new look, so they may
be safe in this design. I think they are.

While it is not obvious at first glance what is a link, the site to
me is very learnable and memorable. What I expect to be links,
headlines and section names, are in fact links. Given the large
number of links on each page, underlining them all would have created
a lot of visual clutter.

Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune, another Tribune Co. property,
recently redesigned its site and uses a very similar information
architecture to the LA Times. They almost look like they use the same
template. One key difference is the Tribune's links are blue. New
York Times uses the same treatment on its website, although with a
darker blue than the Tribune.

Looking at A List Apart, another site designed to mimic print design,
the things I would expect to be links - articles titles, auther names,
and global navigation - are in fact links but are not underlined.

In the case of blogs and newspaper sites, the navigation conventions
used are established enough for these types of sites that the
underlining of links can be dropped, especially when mouseover
feedback is provided. This might not work for travel or insurance
sites but works for blogs and newspapers. Todd is right that as
people's comfort with and understanding of the web evolves, the
rules of interaction also will evolve. As long as we keep testing
this should not be a problem.

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19 Aug 2009 - 2:11am
Manish Govind P...
2006

//Looking at A List Apart, another site designed to mimic print design,
the things I would expect to be links - articles titles, auther names,
and global navigation - are in fact links but are not underlined.//

I certainly believe that you are correct in that regard. The site is definitely quick to grasp. Plus i believe users now understand web pages well and definitely know which text/content to be clickable. The mouse pointer simply follows the eye nowadays, doesn't it?

--- On Mon, 17/8/09, Willl Hacker <willhacker at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

From: Willl Hacker <willhacker at sbcglobal.net>
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Latimes.com Redesign - No Link Colors
To: discuss at ixda.org
Date: Monday, 17 August, 2009, 1:41 PM

19 Aug 2009 - 10:39am
mgreen49
2007

In general, I'm very much on the side of having links either
underlined or a distinct color. "Clean design" should never trump
usability. Even if it takes a millisecond to figure out what's a
link and what isn't, that's too long.

However, I do think their homepage works. It really is almost
entirely links and I was hard pressed to find an instance of
hesitation on my part. At least they are using underlines on
rollovers which works.

The problem is that the home page determines precedents for inside
page styles and that's where the strategy starts to falter. Once you
get a decent amount of content on a page, determining where links are
does become more of a whack-a-mole situation (I believe that's the
academic term for it).

The designers realized this and they are using a distinct color for
in-line links; those within a story. That's the area I'd expect the
most difficulty finding a link.

The biggest problem I experienced was on secondary-level landing
pages (e.g., "Business") where story promo headlines are smaller
than the excerpt of text below it. I suspect that's a CSS error for
my browser (Firefox/Mac). If that were fixed, I would have expected
those to be links.

Overall, this solo user-tester found it to be a fairly usable design
despite my prejudices.

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19 Aug 2009 - 11:07am
ambroselittle
2008

Seems to me that the "rule" of making links distinctive is far more
important if they're being used as Intriguing Branches within a larger body
of text.
You can use Command Areas (as they do) to offset groups of links and the Tag
Cloud is another case like this. Titles, especially in the context of
excerpts/lists, make perfect sense--the lack of the full story makes you
want to know more, and the underline on hover is an Invitation to click and
do just that. In short, when not in the body of text, there are other ways
to make links sufficiently discoverable, and I think they pull it off pretty
well. Can you imagine if they made all their links underlined or a brighter
color? It'd overload your brain.

My vote goes with this was the right choice in their case, FWIW. :)

25 Aug 2009 - 9:41am
Ruairi Doyle
2009

Hi Steven,

I work in the online news industry and was interested in your
questions but never got round to giving some opinion back.

Someone else shared a link with me of this same topic over at
unmatchedstyle - a good read and probably of interest if you have not
already come across it,
http://www.unmatchedstyle.com/gallery/los-angeles-times.php

Best regards,
Ruairi

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27 Aug 2009 - 5:39pm
Diana Wynne
2008

BTW I just discovered the California Schools Guide on the new LA Times
site in the Local section. This may have been on the previous site;
does anyone know who produced it?

http://projects.latimes.com/schools/
http://projects.latimes.com/schools/school/foothill-ranch/foothill-ranch-elementary/

Elegant data presentation, especially once you drill down to schools
and districts and expand the sections to look at test scores,
immunizations, etc.

I'm impressed with how many people are entering comments (Kris about
Pacific Palisades, 1 hour, 59 minutes ago), both in the schools
section and over in the LA neighborhoods section, which is populated
by census data but presented in coherent, narrative style. And smart
about the intersecting regions of counties, neighborhoods, school
districts, etc.

http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/
http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/granada-hills/

(I am a bit worried about all the Waldorf schools giving waivers on
immunizations for half their kindergarten classes. It's a good sign
when a data visualization makes you want to interact with it, right?)

Diana

On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM, Steven
Johnson<steven.johnson at disney.com> wrote:
> The new L.A. Times web redesign launched last night.
>
> IA-wise, it's basically the same site, but the look-and-feel more
> strongly embraces the print idiom (e.g., Georgia font).
>
> I feel like the big news is that they've dropped link colors from
> headlines, nav, etc.
>
> Latimes.com is my alma mater (1999-2006), and I now also teach web
> publishing at Annenberg School of Journalism at USC.
>
> I'd really like to get some feedback on the redesign from the
> IxD/UED community to bring back to the J-school and print publishing
> worlds.
>
> Please have a look: http://www.latimes.com/
>
> Thanks.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

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