The Daily Express, which bills itself as ‘the world’s greatest newspaper’ has launched a new beta version of its website today with a new homepage layout.

Users are currently directed to the new version, while giving readers the option of using the original site, which provides an opportunity to compare the two…

Here’s the old Express homepage:

Old Express homepage

And the new version:

New Express homepage

While the general look of the site hasn’t changed radically, though the beta version has a slightly less cluttered layout and larger links.

While most news websites now have top navigation bars, all the links to the various sections of the Express site are down the left hand side of the page, which makes it slightly harder to use.

It has also introduced collapseable widgets to display different sections on the homepage, as on the BBC’s homepage, so you can make the page look like this:

However, you can’t do that much to personalise the homepage as you can on the BBC with options to move widgets up and down the page or localise content, so it seems a half-hearted effort so far. It would have been a better idea if you could add widgets from your preferred sections of the site rather than just minimise the ones you don’t want.

The ads of the right hand side of the page on the original version have now been moved down to make way for search and weather widgets. The headlines widget in the centre of the page features the latest four headlines, but doesn’t do as good a job of attracting clicks as it could.

In the space where most newspaper websites are promoting their own content, as with the most read/commented/curious widget on the Times website, the Express has chosen to promote a web search feature, and is actually inviting users to search for something outside of its own website. This search box, with options for Google, Bing, Yahoo etc is far more prominent than its own site search options.

There are issues too, as Malcolm Coles has pointed out; the intros in the featured headlines box are oddly truncated, while accessibility doesn’t seem to have been given enough thought, as the entire content on the page vanishes when Javascript is turned off.

I think the Express website was due a revamp, and since this is just a beta version, there may be improvements still to come, but at the moment it lags behind mot of its news rivals online in terms of user experience, and presumably visitor numbers, though there are no ABCe stats for the Express.