Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of The Des Moines Register. I grew up in Waukee, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines, and my family frequently bought the Des Moines Register to keep up with both local and national news. Now that I’m at Drake, I get the Des Moines Register for free, which means I read it even more often than I did before.
With that said, the Des Moines Register’s website could be better. And by better, I mean a lot better. While the content on the website is fabulous, both the navigation and general design of the first page obstructs viewers from reading further, rather than encouraging them to read on.
For example, when I went to desmoinesregister.com, this was the first thing I saw:
When I’m looking for news, this is not the first thing I want to see. While pop-up ads are still relevant and used today, many users (and in this case, regular readers), do not want to see it. According to Jay Baer, author of “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype,” there are several key points in pop-up ads. Baer admits that while hated, pop-up ads work, and they work well. Users are forced to at least glance at pop-up ads, which is a better viewing percentage than some banner ads or other online ad forms. But, users really, really hate them. And in this case, a user is not only a person shopping for something, researching articles or quickly Googling an answer to an unknown question—they’re reading articles for their own enjoyment.
Anything and everything can obstruct readers from reading a newspaper article, and if readers know that The Des Moines Register website is notorious for interrupting their reading time, they will simply stop visiting the site. Which will then lead to less advertisers willing to advertise on the site, which will lead to less profits in general. In this case, the publication should first and foremost take care of the reader.
Although I preach about easy navigation on websites, The Des Moines Register’s homepage almost has too much. A reader is overwhelmed with the amount of information available. The first navigation bar is at the top horizontal bar, which looks similar to the different sections in newspapers. That makes sense. But then, on the left hand side, there’s a navigation bar that has similar categories, one of which is “E-Newspaper.” How is the e-newspaper tab different than what I’m looking at now? And finally, you have a list of stories in the middle of the page that I assume are newsworthy pieces; but, I don’t know how often they’re updated, if they have anything in common or if they’re worth reading. Making this simpler through regular newspaper categories could be more beneficial here.
Finally, these icons are the start of a square block once you scroll down to the bottom of the page. I suggest instead of these ambiguous icons, the website should use its social media icons to make it easier to share. I would also suggest having a black outline of the icon rather than the more subtle gray filler.
To sum it up, there’s great content on the website; I just want readers to have easier access to this content. If a fan as big as I am won’t go on the register’s website to access news, then I’m sure potential readers won’t either. And remember, keep it simple, have great navigation and lay back on the amount of ads.