Review: The Listener Web Site
Copyright © March 1998 to Bruce Simpson
Aardvark's Review Policies
|Updates and corrections||
When the original review of this site was written, it was assumed
that Glazier Systems was the company responsible for the technology
implementation and Walker Advertising
was responsible for the "creative" and graphic elements.
It has been suggested to me (although I've had no confirmation from Walker Advertising despite sending them email asking) that Walkers were in fact responsible for the entire site and that Glazier Systems only role has been to host the site. In this case I consider the Listener article dated 28 March to be misleading as it clearly includes Glazier Systems staff in the list of the "site development team" (photo on page 29).
Since I have neither confirmation nor denial at this stage as to who is responsible for this site, I have replaced references to Glazier Systems with "the Web Developers".
If Walkers are the the responsible party then I apologise to Glazier Systems for the original review.
Readers may note that some of the obvious errors on The Listener site which were highlighted in this review have since been fixed (where do I send the bill?).
|With eager anticipation||
The Listener has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the country's very best publications so it was with great anticipation that I fired up my browser and keyed in the URL www.listener.co.nz.
After reading Russell Brown's advertorial article about the site in this week's pulp edition of The Listener I was expecting great things.
Unfortunately the reality does not quite match the hype.
I'll start by focusing on what should be the strongest part of the
site - the Discussion Forums, erroneously referred to by Brown
in his article as "Newsgroups".
Now I'll say right from the start that it's very, very hard to produce even a half-good discussion forum using traditional HTML web pages. The compromise between ease of use and speed of operation is a difficult one to get right but I was hoping that the Web designers might have done a little better than they have.
For a start, once you get down to an individual message level, the screen consists of two frames. The top frame, containing The Listener banner and the list of links to individual messages within the thread. Unfortunately the top frame takes up 65% of the available screen space, leaving room for only 6 or 7 lines of the actual message in the frame below if you're running a standard VGA resolution of 640 x 480. Also, the two navigational buttons (Groups and Search) are hidden out of view at this resolution, requiring the user to scroll the top frame up to even be aware of their existence.
Also, perhaps as an unfortunate side-effect of Microsoft's ASP technology, it's not possible to tell which postings you've already read because the links don't change from blue to magenta once you've followed them as they do with conventional HTML techniques.
|Where's the content?||
Most Web sites designed to promote and support a print-media
publication do so by containing some full articles and a few
teasers. A good example of this is the Web site for
which contains "just enough" good, high quality content to make
you want to subscribe to the printed edition.
I fully expected the Listener site would follow this model but again I was sadly disappointed. Clicking on the headline of what I hoped would be a full-length article produced nothing but a 1 paragraph summary and a sometimes strangely distorted graphic.
Hoping they would carry the full text of articles from previous issues in their archive section, I took a look.
Unfortunately this is not the case. Once again, only the same 1 paragraph summary is provided - hardly worth the effort.
|They have missed the basics||
Time and time again I lament the way those with the most
to spend end up with the worst results when it comes to creating
a presence on the Web - and this site is a pretty good example
In this week's print-edition of The Listener they say of the site "I guess you'll either love it or you'll hate it". That's not quite true. I suspect the graphical design of the site is something that may polarise opinion one way or the other but the stupid implementation and design errors that abound throughout the site are clearly unacceptable by any measure.
I feel sorry for Microsoft who obviously thought they'd use this site as a promotional vehicle and showcase for their Internet technology (on which the site runs) however I feel that as it stands, this site may be more of a very public embarrassment rather than an asset.
A word of advice to the Web developers and Microsoft - employ some 3rd-party expertise in those areas which you obviously lack the necessary skills. Even the very best Web site designers and implementors MUST engage an external review of their sites before launch. Would either of these companies release a software program without a stringent regime of independent testing and quality checks? I don't think so. Why treat the Web as less deserving of this essential step?
|The bottom line||
I fear that The Listener site is yet another case of
a mainstream publisher getting it wrong on the Net.
Perhaps they've thought it was "safe" to go with Microsoft and a Microsoft-approved developer but that's obviously no guarantee of success in an industry where money spent does not always equate to results achieved.
Given the rather poor start that Wilson & Horton have made with their Net ventures (ie: the NZ Herald's myopic Microsoft-only site) I had hoped they'd learnt a few lessons by now.
So.. here's the bottom line:
Aardvark relegates The Listener site to the "could have done
much better" category and says to the Web developers and
The Listener: "time to reload and aim for the other foot perhaps?".
Aardvark relegates The Listener site to the "could have done much better" category and says to the Web developers and The Listener: "time to reload and aim for the other foot perhaps?".
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