UX – Digital Newspaper Vs Paper Newspapers

I read an article a few years ago that talked about the differences between online papers versus hardcopy papers and the disadvantages that online subscribers face.  It seemed as if the writer was writing from personal experience.  After some of my own comparisons, what I too realised is that there is a fundamental difference to how both forms of papers present the news.  For example, there isn’t a “Today’s news” section for online news subscribers for many digital newspapers and that’s the focus of this post.  This article didn’t pick up on that, however it did make this interesting quote:

The paper cites other researchers on the subject who have theorized that the layout of online pages—which often insert ads mid-story or force readers to click additional pages to finish the story—may alter the reading experience.

Most online newspapers have an aggregated landing page citing various news subjects. The problem it creates is that there is no option (other than faced search) to see just the last 24 hours news in an editorial decided way. It’s just the list from your faceted search, the dates mixed, or most relevant news view that you would normally see in most online newspapers.

Online newspapers have an aggregated landing page will capture the top 1 or 2 most recently published articles in that section and the issue with that is that a given article could have last been published 2 days ago in that section.

That’s the closest version of a “Today’s news” section I’ve seen so far on the digital scape of many newspapers. The image below is a prime example.

MyFamilyClub

Whilst the design does well to maximise on space and enhance the user experience by providing an excerpt of copy from the article when a user hovers their mouse pointer over an image, the user would still need to click on one of the images (that links tot he article) to view the published date. It’s a common issue that I don’t see being solved anytime soon for smaller or even larger online publishers.

For a better user experience there should be a way for the subscriber to customise their view or be a section with only today’s news. USA Today have managed the latter with an option to go full-screen and focus in only on what is happening now:

USA Today

www.usatoday.com

They also provide a published date in the superscript of each article listed.  The main article with the large video doesn’t have a published date, but by looking at the list you can see that it’s chronological, with the newest first.  So the user is likely to assume that the top article is the most recent.  This is a much better example of good user experience and goes some way to solving the problem of how news is displayed.

Conclusion

Unless online publishing sites in general take a more measured and user centric approach to how they display their news (some have come a long way such as USA Today) then I believe we will always have this problem.

Good resources:

Have you noticed any differences between digital and hard copy newspapers?  What has been your experience of both by comparison?

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