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Straits Times Uninteractive

Ok, we know that <a href="http://straitstimes.com.sg/">The Straits Times</a> puts out its online articles for a week before locking them out of the public domain in order to solicit paying subscribers. That has been blogged to death.
But am I the only one who thinks the site is <strong>teh SUCK</strong>? Who the heck is in charge of this online mess? Fire the idiot. Honestly.
Let's look at it from a design standpoint, then from a usability standpoint. Here's a popup of a <a href="http://tribolum.com/posts/2005/06/sti.php" onclick="window.open('http://tribolum.com/images/posts/sti.php','popup','width=1024,height=768,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0'); return false">screenshot of the site</a> (100kb, 1028 x 768 jpg), taken today.<h4>Design</h4>
<ol><li>Main photo does not corresponds with "Top story". The captions under the main photo explain the photo. It is not a lead-in to any article and serves no purpose other than "we need a photo here".</li>
<li>Ad placement. The top banner and side ads are commonplace among newspaper sites, but what's the deal with the row of ads in the middle of the content? It's a throwback to print design's below-the-fold, but do you <em>really</em> need to put ads in there to break the flow of the content? It brings us to the next point…</li>
<li>Animated gifs. Way too many of them. Almost all the ads are animated gifs. <acronym title="Straits Times Interactive">STI</acronym> decides to make their "take a tour" and "I want to subscribe" animated gifs as well. This takes valuable reader attention away from the Pulitzer-potential articles.</li>
<li>Broken grid. If you follow the 3-column from the top (main photo, top story and latest news), you'll see that the lines break as you go down. "Billboard protest" stretches out into column 3, breaking the layout and turning into an eyesore.</li>
<li>Netscape favicon up in the browser URL navigation bar. 'nuff said.</li></ol>
<h4>Usability</h4>
This is what really pisses me off.
<ol><li>Mixed bag of text and graphics. Some headlines (like Ching Cheong there in the middle) are jpgs. With no alt text too.</li>
<li>Crap code. See the "latest news" section? It's not an unordered list. It's text placed in a table cell beside a table cell holding a picture of a small red bullet. Do you know there are 28 tables in the homepage alone??? I don't see any tabular data that requires them.</li>
<li>No entry. You <strong>cannot</strong> view any of the articles without registering. This is the case in many other newspapers, but I'll explain later why I absolutely hate STI.</li>
<li>Login Blackhole. Clicking on any article will bring you to the login screen. At this point even your back button on your browser isn't able to save you. You are stuck on this screen until you log in, or if you haven't already, register.</li>
<li><a href="http://subst.asia1.com.sg/sub/Registration.jsp" title="STI's registration form">Registration</a> is a biatch. Every field is a required field. Your sex, your birthday, your annual household income, your highest educational qualification, your physical address and phone number (!!!).
Here's where it gets interesting. If you are a subscriber of ST's print edition, you get question 6, "Select your subscription package". If you're not a print subscriber, you go to question 7,
<blockquote>"If you are not a print subscriber but would like an online-only subscription, pick your package:"</blockquote>
What the friggin' hell??? There is no free look at any of the articles? The only way I can view any of this online material is by paying?</li></ol>
I know the more streetwise among you are telling me to lie, but I'm expected to give accurate information. It's in the terms and conditions.
Please, someone kill me now. If you're reading this, whoever's in charge of the STI site, please take a good hard look at <a href="http://www.iht.com/">International Herald Tribune's site</a>. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's darn close.

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