Many of the UK’s newspaper websites have been redesigned over the past year or so and, in general, most are pretty good.

However, there are still a few annoying features of these sites which can spoil the user experience and could be improved upon.

Here is a selection…

Use of overlays

Overlays can be even more irritating than pop-ups as they obscure the article you are attempting to read, forcing you instead to search for the ‘x’ that will allow you to close the thing.

Sadly, despite their potential to annoy users, many well known publishers persist in using them. Just this morning, I went to the otherwise excellent Times website, only to find this: 

Times overlay

Rubbish site search

To be fair, this has improved recently, mainly thanks to the fact that many newspapers are now using Google for their site searches.

Martin Belam did an interesting comparison of newspaper site search features recently, finding that The Sun, Telegraph and Times Online performed poorly.

For example, the top headline on Times Online this morning was ‘Rice heads to Georgia amid scorched earth claims’. Enter this headline into Google and you’ll find that the search engine has already indexed it, but the newspaper hasn’t: 

Times site search

Not allowing comments on news articles

Newspapers have come a long way in adopting Web 2.0 features like user generated content, and most now have some sort of blogs / comment section on their websites.

However, many don’t allow you to leave comments on main news articles. Times Online does, as do both The Sun and Mail Online. Most others don’t.

Not only is it interesting to read other people’s opinions on major news stories, but it is also an excellent way for newspapers to get readers more involved and have them coming back to keep up with the debate.

Not approving comments quickly enough

I appreciate the fact that comments sometimes need to be checked for abusive or racist language, as well as spam, but this needs to be done quickly enough to allow the debate to flow properly.

If comments are moderated before they appear on the page then this needs to be done quickly, otherwise it will be make it more difficult to get a debate going.

As a test, I left a comment on both Mail Online and Times Online. While I was still waiting an hour later for my comment to appear on the Mail website, Times Online approved it within 5 minutes.

Playing audio automatically

This is particularly annoying, especially if you are surfing from work, or you have your computer’s volume turned up high.

This is something I have frequently encountered on the Telegraph site, especially in the travel section. Thankfully though, not many other newspapers seem to be doing this now.

Few outbound links

Newspapers are frequently linked to by bloggers, so it only seems fair that they occasionally return the favour, especially as many journalists use blogs for inspiration or for background for their own articles.

Take this example from The Independent; it takes a story from TechCrunch but doesn’t even link back to the original source.

Newspapers can also benefit from linking out more; a recent study by blogger David Eaves found a correlation between the number of outbound and the number of inbound links.  

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