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Review of the new dn.se

Web Development

Dagens Nyheter, the largest morning newspaper in Sweden, launched a new website today. The old one was a bit of a mess with horrible HTML and a design that discouraged the visitors from reading articles. Is the new one better?

In short, no. It’s still a mess from a design and user experience perspective, the front page weighs in at 2600kB and 183 requests, it has blocky fonts and while it works with JavaScript turned off it’s really a pain with NoScript and similar plugins since the requests are spread out over a number of external domains and there’s no way of knowing which is used for what. The way I see it it’s most of all a missed opportunity, with a full revamp and a move to a new platform they could have created a modern responsive website that really brings the game forward and pushes the envelope for news websites. Instead it’s just another newspaper website with a complete lack of vision and understanding of how the web works.

DN's first page 2011-10-25

DN.se's first page on 2011-10-25



Design

The overall objective was to make the web edition more similar to the paper version of the newspaper and bring in more dynamic and adaptable content so that the first page is almost completely new from day to day. They first had thoughts about reducing the top navigation but after watching users in action which used it heavily they decided to let it remain largely intact. I see two main problems with this line of thinking, the web isn’t print and watching users makes you locked to existing solutions instead of being free to try completely new concepts.

Making a website that has a completely static and fixed layout, cluttered design and is anti-mobile (see below for more technical info) in 2011 is close to being a crime, the right way would have been to make something flexible, responsive and mobile first and try to reinvent newspapers on the web instead of walking further from the possibilities of the medium.

Just as before they let the  advertisements take the priority over the content which makes me wonder who the site is targeting since they just doesn’t seem to want to provide a good user experience.

Choppy headlines

The jagged and choppy edges of the headlines in Chrome on Windows 7.

The final nail in the design coffin is the use of web fonts, I’m sure someone thought it was a good idea to leverage modern web font technology to make the headings pop but someone needs to have a look on other platforms than Apple when implementing the solution. The letters just look horrible and choppy on my Windows 7 machine in both Chrome, IE9 and Firefox (although Firefox tries to smooth them) and I don’t think they resonate at all with the rest of the typography and design.

Page size and requests

As I said in the intro the front page weighs in at over 2600kB, 182 requests, 2751 DOM elements, 89 inline scripts and an overall YSlow score of 61, the Google developer tools has the stats at 334 requests, 3.59MB transferred and 5.68s of loading time on a desktop computer with a 100mbit fiber connection. Anyway we see it that means that the page is incredible heavy, slow, archaic and unsuitable for mobile use.

When visiting the site with a mobile device they push for a mobile app at the top of the screen but other than that no apparent optimizations are made which means that they not only choose not to see mobile devices as a part of the web but also not the web as a complement to their mobile apps. With the amount of quality content that DN daily creates they really have the opportunity to push the envelope and rise above all other newspapers (sort of like what Financial Times did with their web app). In order to do that they have to go back to the drawing board, think about what the web really means and how it works and then start from that, not look back at the paper edition and use that as a starting point.



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