Hellomagazine.com, the online version of the celebrity magazine, was redesigned a couple of months ago.
I've been having a look around the Hello website to see if the revamp has improved the site, and how it compares to those of its rivals; sites like iVillage, More, and heatworld.
Plenty of white space on the homepage lets you find your way around the content on offer, though it might be considered a bit 'busy'. There's little contrast and it is quite difficult to anchor the eye. Maybe that's just me? Also, there are a few gaps appearing with no content or ads, though it could just be a broswer issue.
The space above the fold is dominated by a Flash scroller displaying some of the top stories. This is all content which is not being indexed by search engines, and other sites like heatworld and Glamour.com manage to display latest stories and pictures without resorting to Flash.
The box to the right of this seems to be underused as well, just displaying six headlines for 'news in pictures'. In such a prominent position, this would be better employed in promoting most recent / most popular stories, to give visitors more reason to click on the links.
Below the fold, the blogs and videos are under-promoted, a few dull text links are all that promote the site's video content, which isn't especially extensive anyway, while the blog is hardly mentioned at all.
Why not display the latest and most commented posts to get visitors more involved? All will become clear...
Navigation / search / load times
The navigation is good, simple to use, and consistent across the site. Likewise, the search function worked well for the terms I tried out, though Google ads take up much of the results page, while I got a 'Server is not able to respond to your request. Please try again!' message on a couple of search attempts.
Load times were mainly OK throughout the site, though the page refresh is a bit jarring on the eye, especially on some of the galleries.
Blogs / UGC
Considering the popularity of blogs and user generated content, especially in entertainment and celebrity gossip, I was surprised at the lack of such features on the site.
Amazingly, comments have been completely disabled on the articles due to abuse. Hello should seriously reconsider this, as encouraging comments and debates gives users a reason to read 'most commented' articles, as well as returning to the site to see what people are saying.
Trolls are always a problem on blogs and comments pages, but this can be solved with good moderation. While I prefer post moderation as a way to keep the debate moving quickly, it would be better to pre-approve comments rather then not allow them at all.
Heatworld, by contrast, allows comments, and has plenty of them on most of its articles. This means that people are coming back to the site to check them, as well as being more likely to recommend articles to friends.
Also, why not have a few more blogs on different entertainment topics, and promote more prominently throughout the site, on the homepage and from related articles?
The site has one blog which, judging by the number of comments, isn't attracting too many people. This isn't surprising, as links to the blog could easily be missed.
Having had a good look around the site, I found a couple of examples of intrusive ads, which isn't good for the user experience. Overlays popped up on a few occasions, obscuring the content behind them, and forcing users to hunt for the 'x' to close it:
Worse still, I encountered a few interstitials when moving around the site. The interstitial is, for my money, the most interruptive of all ad formats and as such to be completely avoided by publishers unless they are a) totally desperate for revenue and b) happy to butcher the user experience, and to hell with the long term consequences:
Obviously the majority of publishers need to make money from advertising to make their business models work, but they should also consider the possible consequences of annoying readers with intrusive ad formats. We don't visit or link to certain websites purely because they sell out the user experience, and you can be sure that we're not the only ones...
Hellomagazine isn't a bad site; it has a decent range of celebrity content, and is easy enough to get around, but it doesn't seem to match the look and feel of its print counterpart.
It could take a few pointers from sites like heatworld, which has a more appealing look and does a better job of promoting its content and getting readers involved on blogs and comments pages.
I'd also recommend having a rethink about ad formats, as the overlays and interstitials are bad for the user experience and may scare users away.