USA Today redesign: Nice function, not enough form

Notes from my first glance at USAToday.com’s redesign:

Reader comments in the masthead: Great idea. Love it. I wonder if they’re choosing a few new ones a few times a day, or if they’re just letting the XML from all the comments feed into the Flash object up top.

Registration and login to comment on stories, upload an avatar, and digg stories to the Most Recommended list: Great. I’ve been wanting to see this on a big newspaper.com for a long time now. It even looks like users can “recommend” comments. Nearly perfect.

This is part of what they’re calling “community,” but it’s clearly not any sort of attempt at a geographic social network, which is good, because it doesn’t make sense for a national newspaper to try and pull that off. Yes, they’re giving readers a “profile page” with what sounds like a space to blog and a list of “recommended” stories — again, this is more like Digg than MySpace or a Drupal site.

Lots of good functionality.

Where I’ve got issues is with the site design itself.

It looks like someone talked a lot about whitespace in meetings, and the designers went a tad overboard. There are a bunch of holes in the design, under headlines to either side of images, which I’d happily plug with a story summary or the first 50 words of the lede.

Other nitpicks:

  • I’d like to see a bit of border on the left side of the page — my eye is getting lost over there, floating to the left.
  • It’s a little weird to see the old orange XML and RSS icons in a fresh redesign, when even Microsoft has moved on to the nearly-standard white-radiating-lines-on-orange icon. Your readers don’t know XML or RSS from FUD or XYZPDQ, so just use the familiar graphics they see in their browsers, please.

So like the headline says, great functionality, but please follow through on the form. Hire a designer or three to go with your developers, and finish the job.