Update, July 15, 2:30 p.m. PDT: We've done some tinkering since the initial post below was written during the testing phase in June, and the redesigned front door of CNET News is now live for all readers.
June is certainly shaping up to be a big month for tech news. A couple days ago, Apple showed off the iPhone 4 (technical glitches be damned), and the giant E3 gaming show is just around the corner. Sandwiched between the two events is this: a redesign for CNET News.
Unlike new versions of the iPhone and the E3 show, which occur annually, the CNET News front door undergoes a makeover roughly every two years. (The redesigned site will be rolled out to a small group of readers Wednesday--those who aren't placed into the test pool will need to rely on the screenshots included with this post.) In 2008, your favorite source of tech news and opinion received what was basically a modest facelift. This time, the changes are more dramatic, and we expect your feedback to be even more caustic than in 2008. Interestingly, as fans of technology and the disruption it causes, you are generally extremely change-adverse when it comes to products like CNET News that you have a longtime connection to.
For example, in the 2008 overhaul the traditional CNET yellow-and-green color scheme was dropped for what you see today. And the iconic logo, a mainstay since the mid-1990s, lost the quirky but endearing vertical "pipe" between the "C" and the "Net." Despite the modest changes, many of you practically had seizures and vowed to dump CNET.
Here are some comments you made after the 2008 changes:
DO NOT WANT. I used to watch C|net since it started. Feels like cnet died in this redesign. Feels like my old yellow wagon just died seeing this.
This could be the first big step towards the end of the CNET that we know and love. I hope Molly and the crew have good long term contracts with great packages.
I've never commented before, but while I appreciate all the good work you've done with the new site design, giving up all mention of your trademark yellow color seems absurd. Time and National Geographic are just two magazines mostly remembered for their colour, as is the NBC peacock. By all means update the logo; kudos for dropping the "|". But please keep your signature color - when I think web news or reviews I think of yellow.
The new look is horrid. Just another site to join the masses of those sites that look JUST like it. CNET is a staple of the Internet being it's yellow and green self. No doubt we can't stop the change because some moron up top decided he wanted to drop the funds into the recreation of a classic scheme.
I'm not sure if LaLaFuFu or CaptainMooseInc indeed gave up on us, or if that little yellow wagon was brought back to life, but CNET News has grown sharply in the past couple years. According to internal numbers--I can't share specifics--monthly unique users were up 47 percent in May 2010 compared with May 2008 and page views were up 27 percent. Perhaps content was more important than the package.
So what's on tap this time around? The first thing you'll notice is that we've cleaned up the hodge-podge of content modules: "Just in," "Blogs and opinion," "More blogs from CNET," etc. Too often, the same stories were appearing in more than one module and most readers don't read news content by looking into various baskets with vague labels.
Cleaning up those modules allowed us to highlight a third story at the top of the page.
In addition, we are rolling out a new module just under those "top stories" that allows users to toggle to various groupings of content. By default, this module will display headlines chosen by our editors. From there, users can choose to see stories that are "trending" based on re-tweets and other measures (we're still working out a few kinks with this feature, but you can expect to see it soon).
Next up are stories that are appearing on other technology sites, a feature that CNET News has had on its front door since its inception in the mid '90s, and the stories that are generating the most discussion among CNET users.
Based on past redesigns, we know that many users are reluctant to engage with such modules--for some reason you tend to be very reluctant to actively find the news that appeals to you and are content to let our editors present their picks. But we're pretty confident that you'll find this new multi-category module to be useful.
Next up on the page is something that we've been calling "the river" because it essentially represents all the content CNET is producing in an untouched stream, with the most recent content on top. You can choose whether to include all the tweets being sent by CNET editors in this stream. You'll see a couple from Molly Wood and Stephen Shankland (who is supposed to be out sick today) in this screenshot.
There's one more thing to notice in the above image: the text at the top alerting you that additional content has been published since the page was last refreshed, which can then be seen with a simple click within the module. Leave the page open for a few minutes and you'll be impressed with the amount of content CNET publishes throughout the day and night.
In the right column, we are continuing our 15-year battle to have this area be useful and not just a ghetto, as many Web publishers refer to it. Here you'll find an intriguing comment from a CNET reader handpicked by CNET editors, a sharing widget, and a handy interface to Facebook.
And just below those features is one more area for us to promote some of our best blog posts.
Of course, we'll be analyzing the heck out of the click-throughs, repeat visits, and various other metrics over the next few weeks and rolling out iterations of the new door, which initially will be presented to just 14 percent of all our visitors. (For now, there's no way to opt in to the test, so some of you will have to wait to give it a test drive.) In addition to the cold metrics, we also encourage more open-ended feedback, which you can send directly to me via e-mail or share with the class by commenting on this post. We also have a separate feedback link on the new front door.
We hope you like what we've done with the site--and that this time around, no yellow wagons are killed in the process.