The people who run the Charlotte Observer’s website rolled out a new beta site recently at charlotte.com. It appears that they want to be a one-stop portal for all things in and around Charlotte, North Carolina.
I’d love to hear what you think about it. Here’s where I’m at with it.
They’ve had the charlotte.com domain pointing at their charlotteobserver .com news domain for over a year, and when they threw the switch to split the domains, there was some confusion. They predicted that the switch might cause some confusion, so they had an information box slide down when you hit the home page. The informational box was a good idea, but I think the execution could have been better. They needed 2 sentences in big bold letters, instead we got 4 paragraphs of various font sizes – which I think meant nobody read it.
If I decide to try out the site by clicking on the top “What’s Happening” story, I get taken to an interim page where all I get is the first paragraph or two, I have to click again to see the story I asked for on the homepage.
The reason that’s frustrating is that it’s not the way the stories in the other column respond. Clicking on a story in “Currently Popular” takes me directly to the full story.
So now I decide to tell the webmaster my gripes, so I click on the big blue box that asks for feedback. Nothing happens, I click it again thinking I missed it. Nope, the box is not hyperlinked. I click the next largest graphical element, nope, not linked. Oh, I see it, it’s the smallest text on the page.
The Charlotte team may not have been aware of it, but that is saying to me, “We don’t really want your feedback.”
They use the awesome Get Satisfaction product to manage the customer service part of the site, but they don’t use the default side tab (like on this very site) that has become a standard on so many web2.0 sites. I think adding the default tab and fixing the user-interface problems would be an easy win.
The next step is the actual management of the charlotte.com customer service page. It’s not easy to do community management, especially for the newspaper industry, which is more used to supporting their advertisers than their readers.
Readers are a fickle bunch. They don’t care about problems, they care about themselves. If you’re going to put up a button and encourage feedback, you best set aside resources to engage.
As of right now, this comment has been sitting unaddressed for 4 days.
The comment is actually pretty accurate, it does have a simple generic look to it the first time to browse to it. Letting this comment sit unanswered, while 4 additional people click the “I agree” button is not managing your community effectively.
A missed opportunity on the site is the streamlined login. They allow users to log in a plethora of ways, but I didn’t even notice until someone else pointed it out to me.
Much like the Get Satisfaction default side tab, alternate login methods have a default look, and charlotte.com has decided to ignore them, for no apparent reason.
When I click the tiny Facebook icon in Firefox, I get a warning of 5 windows opening – eek!
Then when you are officially logged in, the site takes on yet another look, and now the default Get Satisfaction tab appears.
There are other minor tweaks, like every page having the exact same title tag, no usable meta tags and almost no searchable content.
That’s what BETA is all about… listening, acknowledging and tweaking.
Let me know what you think.