International Herald Tribune
November 26, 2000 2:18 PM   Subscribe

International Herald Tribune sets the new standard for online newspapers with a site that even the online design community appreciates. [Site of the week @ Three.Oh]
posted by riffola (11 comments total)
I love the toolbar, especially the "clippings" feature.
posted by gleemax at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2000

The whole thing is brilliant, and has been talked about at length over several logs, my own and Matt's among them.

Some of this stuff is just plain revolutionary. The clippings feature resolves brilliantly one of the most important functionality problems of the net that there is - that you have to click on a link in an index page, read an article and then click back to go back to the page if you want to read something else. Frankly, this kind of functionality will either be built into browsers ASAP or it will become a staple of every well designed editorial-based site. Completely revolutionary.

And don't get me stated on the preloaded articles put into layers, rendering on the fly as one or three column, with immediate text resizing and a separate printable version. Or the top nav bar's apparent integration into the browser. Or the pop-ups in the Arts and Culture section. I could go on pretty much indefinitely on this one to be honest...
posted by barbelith at 4:14 PM on November 26, 2000

At first glance the three.oh site does not impress me. The font size is damn small(6-9pt?).

Also, from Tree.oh:
"Site is best viewed with Geneva font. PC users download here." Right.

The International Herald Tribune does impress though, I wonder who designed it...
posted by geir at 4:33 PM on November 26, 2000

Really wonderful. It's so refreshing to see something like this done -- in an intelligent and creative manner. Everything barbelith said.
posted by leo at 4:54 PM on November 26, 2000

Anytime the "online design community" gets excited about a site, I take that as a warning that something I'm about to really hate is coming down the pike. Widgety, gadgety, all-singing all-dancing thingamabobs may make web designers' novelty-seeking hearts sing, but they are a genuine nuisance when you're actually trying to read something. All the same, I didn't find the IHT site nearly as awful as I thought I would.

- Pretending to be a UI component is dangerous. The little window-hugging DHTML widget bar breaks the page-up and page-down functionality, because it sits on top of the first line of the next page. Instead of reading fluidly through the article, like I can with a normal site, I have to look away from the text and adjust the scrollbar so I can see the first sentence of the next page. Bad bad bad. Nice try, but this alone means I'm never coming back.

- The clippings feature is a lot of work to recreate something the browser gives you for free. It is not a solution to a major problem facing the net, it is not a revolutionary new way to browse, it is not a bold new idea - it's what many of us have been doing for years. It's called "Open Link in New Window" and it works great. If a browser had this clippings system built in, it might be an improvement, but on the IHT site it adds nothing I don't have already.

- The site interacts weirdly with MSIE; when I have one of its windows open, typing into any other browser window gets lagged rather badly. This is not strictly their fault, but I doubt it would happen if they hadn't crammed the page so full of javascript.

- The preloaded page-flip is an elegant solution to a problem that doesn't need to exist in the first place. There are two reasons to break an article into separate pages: 1) to save your readers from long download times, or 2) to give yourself a chance to shove more banner ads in your readers' faces. In this situation, neither applies, because they have to download the whole article up front anyway, and the banner ad remains constant throughout. The solution itself eliminates the benefit of the multiple page layout!

- Font size adjuster buttons - great, but why reinvent that when my browser does it already? The only reason for this thing to exist is that their three-column layout does a bad thing and refuses to accomodate multiple text sizes. They're just solving a problem they created.

- Drop-down javascript menus - these things are always awkward, slow, and subtly wrong compared to real menus. These menus are better than most, but they're still rigid, fragile, and clunky.

- Messed up link appearance. Somebody thought it was a smart idea to take away the underline that has been the mark of a hyperlink for the entire history of the web, then use two different link colours at once - one of which is also used as a hilight in body text!

In the end, I don't hate this site. The designers, while afflicted with the endemic gadget myopia that has led so many others to this field of mishaps, appear to have genuinely attempted to make the reader's life easier. They're just in the wrong business; this is a web site, not a web browser, and the innovations get in the way.

What truly disappoints me is that buried underneath the in-your-face javascript widgetry there's a site that's every bit as good as the praise lavished on it.

- Navigation is straightforward and unambiguous. It's easy to find what you're looking for. It's easy to see what there is to look for. As far as I can tell, no part of the site is ever more than two hops away from any other part - brilliant.

- The layout is impressively clean. The navigation widgets are unobtrusive and visually distinct. The text is easy to read and easy to separate from the widgets. Colour is used deftly and sparingly. Location cues abound.

- The ability to hide the ad banner is considerate and friendly, if somewhat obscure. Someone is clearly thinking of the readers' concerns here.

- Sane URLs - no elaboration needed.

If only the designers had been a bit less ambitious. It's not a web site designer's job to upgrade the web browser, or even to pay much attention to the web browser. The web is an *awful* place to pretend to be a normal computer UI.

posted by Mars Saxman at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2000

Best designed news site bar none.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:21 AM on November 27, 2000

There are two reasons to break an article into separate pages: 1) to save your readers from long download times, or 2) to give yourself a chance to shove more banner ads in your readers' faces.

Which reminds me: I don't know if this was a function of the Great New York Times Redesign, but it annoys me to no end that most stories on the site are now divided into multiple pages. Aaargh. I like to Open In New Window and let the pages load in their entirety in the background and then read them one by one.

I hate the Scrapbook feature and the Page Holder in MSIE. Too much squandered real estate.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:57 AM on November 27, 2000

The main thing about the multiple page thing is that it allows you to have all the content on screen at once without scrolling - which we all know is something that is not often undertaken by a large proportion of the people who go to sites. The immediacy of this site on that level (combined with the narrow column widths which are an aid to reading - see Newspapers for a forerunner) encourages people to read further...
posted by barbelith at 9:17 AM on November 27, 2000

If someone isn't going to scroll, is it likely they'll click onto pages two and three? It seems to me that scrolling would be a more likely activity.
posted by daveadams at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2000

Tech question: Can anyone reverse engineer that badass javascript/css they're using to dynamically update the number of characters in a column/number of pages in the article.

or at least tell me how it's done.

thanks so much.

i'll give you big kiss.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:29 AM on November 30, 2000

I'm going to toss out ideas, I haven't looked at any of the code, so I can't say for certain, but here's how I'd go about doing it. Logic only, it's too early to write code. :-)

The column width is fixed. Make your browser window narrow, you've still got the 3, same-sized columns. Say, at 200 pixels, because it's a nice round number.

The articles, as was pointed out, are preloaded into memory, so length functions can be performed on it, so we know how many characters are in a story. Say, 1000, again for easy figurin'.

The available height of the columns is probably calculated by finding the size of the window and knowing that the text takes up, say 50% of the window (what with the page header & footer and the article header) so if you've got 800 pixels in the window, the column height is 400 pixels.

The height of each row is easy to calculate once you have the font metrics.

After that it gets tricky, figuring out how many characters on a row will be rendered, since it automatically wraps a full word. Hrm. I'll have to think about the rest.
posted by cCranium at 2:57 AM on November 30, 2000

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