01 November 2011

No Nose for Navigation

At the same time I looked at Chessnc.com in my post No Nose for FIDE News, I took screenshots of three of my favorite chess news sites with the same software used for the images in The Longest Sidebar. I did this because, unlike my other favorite news sites TWIC & Chessbase, all three of these sites have new designs (Whychess is completely new since some time before this past summer), that I really don't like very much. The screenshots are shown below, side by side.

Chessdom.com Chessvibes.com Whychess.org

The two sites that have been with us for a few years both announced redesigns within a few of weeks of each other.

As for Whychess, Google digs up a few odd posts from April & May,

but the floodgates opened some time in June.

I congratulate everybody on launching a website WhyChess.org! Starting from this week we’re going to record regularly the best novelties of the week at the same time remembering not very successful ones. • Top-10 Theoretical Novelties. TWIC 867 [18 June 2011; author unknown]

So why don't I like the designs of these sites? Because I don't know how to navigate them efficiently. I'm the type of person who reads a newspaper (remember those?) from front to back.

It's well known that most people scan a newspaper the same way they read -- for English that's top to bottom, left to right -- which is why newspaper layouts have the most important story in the upper left corner of the page. I start on the front page, scan the headlines, then start reading the stories that interest me most. Then I turn to the second page, using the same technique, third page, etc., stopping for a bit longer on the editorial page, the finance page, the sports page, and the comics. On these chess news pages, I haven't yet found a comfortable way to read them. I didn't have this problem with the old layouts of Chessdom and ChessVibes, and I'm really not sure why it changed with the redesigns.

One problem might be the column sizes that change arbitrarily. The Chessdom page starts with two columns (plus a column for the ads; I have no problem with that) then shifts to four columns, where the four columns vary in size. Looking at the page as a whole, like I've captured it in the image, it seems obvious where to jump to the top of the next column, but when I'm scrolling down a screen at a time (the Chessdom page is about four screens long on my laptop), I don't have that complete overview to guide me. On top of that, I often find that the same story is linked multiple times from the same page. Can you imagine a newspaper doing that -- 'Please turn to page two for the full story' -- printed in different places on the front page for the same story? I find it all very disconcerting.

Maybe the problem will disappear as I use these sites more, but it's already been a few months and I just can't shake the feeling that I'm not getting as much from these sites as I should.

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