Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Guardian Unlimited

This site has very few ads in relation to actual content – there are a couple of ads, but they are along the very top or the right side and aren't too prominent. I've never seen popup ads on this site. There is also a small ad for the pay-for services offered by the Guardian, and the navigation box with the services listed in it is highlighted in pink and red, instead of the blue that is used for other navigation boxes.

This site is often updated; in fact, there is a semi-marquee (the text slowly appears) in the very center of the page that displays the most current of headlines. These headlines are very brief and the semi-marquee effect isn't as irritating as a regular marquee effect.

The links in the top navigation bar are revealing of users; for example, they bring the “Books” and “Football” sections to the top level, along with labels like “Sport,” “Business,” and “Arts.” Alternatively, the first two labels could be included under other, higher level categories, though they must be useful enough to users that they have been placed on this top level. The intended audience for this site appears to be primarily people in the UK, though also English–reading internationals. They do not provide versions of the site in other languages, though they do claim to be the “Best daily newspaper on the world wide web.” The site also targets adults – some sites offer a “kids” section but this one does not. The content is for a general audience, rather than a specific group (for example, it does not target parents, mothers, college students, etc). There appears to be a balance between a focus on technology, business, general news, and arts.

I would recommend this site in part because it has a nice layout and is easy to read. I like it that there are enough pictures to be informative, but not enough to cause site loading to be slow or to detract from the text. I also like how they separate and provide extensive information about the site itself and the people behind the Guardian, and that they have many help and search features. This includes search boxes, as well as help specific to each section of the Guardian. Also, they seem to encourage user feedback by making it easy to contact them multiple ways.

Another thing I like about this site is the interactive guides section to find out more about each topic, rather than simply reading a single article. This feature tracks themes in the news, and is useful at least as a beginning for background research. The search box and archive search are fairly good – they allow you to search between certain dates, in headlines and text or just headlines, etc. Also helpful for research are the “Useful links” provided on the left of articles, which lead to related stories. There is also a small section of links on the left labeled “Go to,” which leads to more general sections of the site that would be of interest (rather than to specific articles). However, the site seems to be more useful for daily news rather than research, because the daily news sections are much better developed than the search capabilities and linking between related stories.

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