Where to find the story of the day on al.com


al.com front page al.com front page with boxes

The al.com front page on the morning of July 20, with the
version on the right showing the placement of the
Aurora shooting spree stories.

(Click to enlarge each version.)

The challenge of news sites is to present important and interesting headlines so readers can find them quickly. Typically, the most important stories can be found at the top.

On Friday, the day of the shooting spree at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., was one of many stories featured in the new al.com stream format. The big stories from Alabama included a bomb threat at a Cahaba Heights drugstore (including arrests) and the state board of education filing a lawsuit against the Birmingham school board.

Certainly the tragedy in Colorado that left 12 dead and more than 50 wounded grabbed media and public attention. The broadcast networks based their evening newscasts and hastily scheduled prime-time specials from Aurora.

The al.com front page has several ways to highlight stories: a banner across the top, a “Don’t Miss” flag (used for a story on an imprisoned former Jefferson County commissioner) and a top right box (used for Tuesday’s Tuscaloosa shooting spree).

The Aurora-related headlines did not have any indicators to help them stand out, as shown above, an odd choice given the clear reader interest (note the 192 comments for one version). One is near the top, just below a link to a recipe for Kalua Pork, while the other is just below an ad block.

al.com front page al.com front page

The al.com front page on the evening of July 20, with the
version on the right showing the placement of the
Aurora shooting spree stories.

(Click to enlarge each version.)

By that evening, a story on the shooting suspect can be found several screens down just below the ad block, as shown above.

If clicks to al.com pages are important in the new Alabama Media Group model (as they were in the previous template), why is the arguably most important story of the day so hard to find?

Good design gives readers a clear path to story hierarchy, through use of color, placement, size, even bold fonts. But in the river of headlines on al.com, it’s more challenging to locate the ones they want to see and click.

More stories on al.com

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4 responses to “Where to find the story of the day on al.com

  1. I find all of these layouts nearly impossible to navigate. The top-down hierarchy aside, nothing stands out as more important than the rest. This is not where I’ll be going to look for news.

  2. Glad I”m not the only one. I tried in vain to find out about the B’ham School Board meeting on Tues. It was maddening. I was on the road and just emailed a friend I knew had attended.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Joe and Virginia.

  4. Pingback: ADVANCE CRISIS: The insanely obsessive guide to the Birmingham News/al.com implosion | Media of Birmingham

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