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Sky News is in the process of updating its website. It currently has a new beta site running alongside the old one.

Sky News beta site

It has a bigger, bolder look, but is it an improvement on the old version? 

The first thing you notice is the bolder use of colours compared with the old site, while fonts, pictures and videos have all grown bigger, which means that there is less content presented on the homepage.

Here's the old version:

Sky News

Navigation

The left hand navigation has been replaced by a menu at the top of the screen underneath the header. This remains in the same place as you choose different sections, making it easier to navigate back and forth through the site.

Sky News navigation bar

The site's content is well promoted throughout the site, a video player prominently displays the top five news stories. The automatic playing of video may annoy some users, though at least the audio is switched off.

I'm not sure that this is the best way to promote the top stories though - the video player takes up a lot of room on the page, while the fact that the 'read story' link is just under the fold means some users may be wondering where to click.

Related video content, pictures, blog discussions and other articles are promoted around news articles, while the most commented stories have been added to the navigation bar.

Blogs

Sky News has tried to make the site as sticky as possible for users by encouraging users to get involved and comment on stories. Related blog posts are displayed alongside news articles to encourage comment.

In addition, Sky plans to give users their own blogs on the site, something which The Telegraph introduced last year.

The site would be even stickier though, if readers could comment on any news article on the site, not just the blogs.

Story tracker

Sky has added a couple of features that allow users to personalise what they see on the site. Users can change the type of news that is previewed on the left hand side of the page, and has also introduced the 'Story tracker'.

If readers are following a particular news event, they can click on the 'track story' link at the bottom of the article to be updated with more news on the subject:

Sky News story tracker

Once you have selected to track a story, updates will be displayed on the right hand side of the site:

Weather maps

Another useful feature is Sky's new interactive weather map. Rather than having to navigate through various menu options to find the weather where you live, or where you plan to go on holiday, you can do this from the same page.  

Sky news wether map

The map allows you to move between countries by dragging the map with your mouse, while you can also get more detail on how the weather will change throughout the day.

Conclusion

The beta site is still a work in progress, but there are some interesting new features on the site, and the new version promises to be an improvement on the old one.

I'm not a huge fan of the colour scheme, and some of the fonts seem to be too big to me, but the site is definitely easier to move around than before.

Also,despite having a lot of pictures and video content on the site, the page loading times are not adversely affected, something which was a problem with the Mail's recent revamp.

I think the site could do a slightly better job of promoting the latest stories above the fold, by promoting most commented and most curious stories alongside the top news, as is done by sites like TimesOnline and The Guardian.

Related stories:
Guardian launches new Web 2.0 sports section
BBC website revamp continues 

Graham Charlton

Published 27 June, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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