MSNBC: Bomb and Strafe the Flyovers, Please

The Bivings Report, a blog operated by the web consulting firm the Bivings Group, today has an excellent analysis of the redesign of MSNBC.com.

In short, there are plenty of things wrong with it, though I am not as sour as Todd Zeigler, author of the Bivings item. The tour of the new site is in some ways more effective than a lot of the site itself.

The MSNBC site adds the usual 2.obligitories:

  • Discussions [called “message boards” under the “participate” tab]
  • UGC solicitations branded “First Person”
  • mobile and IM news updates
  • more RSS feeds than I had the patience to count (four pages’ worth!)
  • widgets (horrifyingly self-promotional; check out the Matt-and-Meredith news widget)

Best new feature: A very simple customization feature that lets you move, collapse and expand content modules on landing pages (say, the Asian-Pacific module under World news). You do this by nudging the module up or down the page with up or down arrows and then clicking the number of stories you want displayed in that module, from 0 to 15. You can for instance push the “Terrorism” module to the top of your page, opening it wide to include 15 stories, and bury and collapse “Europe” completely. (I do not intend that in the Rumsfeldian sense of “bury and collapse Europe.”)

Worst old feature: That easy-to-hate, entirely inexplicable left-rail navigation that, when overmoused, launches flyover submenus across the page until all content on the incumbent page is hidden by prompts to content elsewhere. Some of these sub- or sub-submenus get “stuck” in the extended mode and require a click (or several) to make them recede.

But it gets worse! The items on the TV program-specific navigation across the top (Dateline, Meet the Press, MSNBC programs, etc.) when moused over also spawn flyovers that obscure vast chunks of content. This means it is possible to nudge your mouse absentmindedly across the top and left hand navigations in succession and mask over all MSNBC content.

All I can figure is someone in a corner office insisted on keeping the flyover navigation, which in my estimation is one of the biggest and most public usability errors on a major media site. Can someone please explain?

Explore posts in the same categories: media, MSNBC, NBC, news, usability, Web 2.0

2 Comments on “MSNBC: Bomb and Strafe the Flyovers, Please”

  1. palmer Says:

    Web 2.Oh-no!

    I have always been a fan of MSNBC.com for their content. I am not impressed with the redesign and see it as a step sideways, not forward. The Microsoft influence is very apparent in this redesign. Fly-overs and drop-downs are just a no-no. In addition to the annoyance factor of covering content, there are technical challenges which you mentioned. Maybe they can be eliminated in the Web 2.37 beta standards //sarcasm off//.

  2. Nicholas Parker Says:

    I agree. I recently made the switch from MSNBC to CNN and BBC. I just cant stand paging thorugh and article and inadvertently scrolling over a flyover, for it to pop up something that blocks my view. In some cases you then have to click the close button for it to go away, and that is 1) bothersome and 2) dangerous.

    Also, I don’t know if you have noticed this, but the mortgage ads, in the middle of each MSNBC page, stop you from scrolling if you have the cursor over them. So you can scroll, land the mouse on one of these ads, and then you can scroll anymore, you have to change you navigation method. It is tres annoying.

    So I simply won’t be back to MSNBC, although I like their content better than CNN until they are gone. Point blank.


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