Last week I introduced a new front door that we're testing for CNET News. This week I'm back to show you something even bigger and better: a new front door for the mother ship, CNET.com.
As I noted in my post about the CNET News door, users are generally very averse to any changes to their favorite Web sites. As a result, most of the feedback we receive following redesigns typically calls for various members of our staff to be subject to extraordinary rendition and waterboarding. But in the case of our new CNET.com door, the current version is so boring and lifeless that I anticipate the positive feedback will far outweigh the negative.
So what do we have in store for you with the new page (which is being rolled out to only a small percentage of users while we run various tests)? Dan Schmidt, the CNET senior product manager who led this effort, explains: "Our goal was to bring more liveliness and breadth of CNET coverage to the page, while enabling effective navigation throughout the site." In addition, we wanted a layout that would allow us to tweak various parts of the page without having to rip the entire thing apart--something that was not really possible on the current CNET front door and one of the reasons it has remained largely unchanged for nearly two years.
First up is a larger and more dramatic "carousel"--the area at the top of the page where we highlight our best content. With the larger palate we will be able to include more related links and more artwork, such as product images or photos of CNET's editors.
Flanking the carousel is a list of categories to the left and top headlines to the right. Both of these areas are very important and we'll be tracking the click-throughs carefully. In the case of the categories, a large percentage of CNET's organic users (those not referred by Google/Yahoo/Bing) start on the CNET door and drill down to the area of the site they want to reach, starting with the categories in this module. With the redesign we're making fewer of the categories visible and hoping that users will hit the "more" link to find the others. (We are actually testing four versions of the page, including one that has a longer category list.)
At the upper right of the page is our list of top headlines that didn't make the cut for the carousel but are still important for users to see. On the current door, those headlines are under the carousel and, frankly, I'm concerned they are not as visible on this new page and will be missed. So that's another bit of data that we will be watching carefully. We're also adding the ability to flag upcoming shows, stories, or events in this area, which should be useful/popular.
Below the carousel is another area for our editors to program interesting content that is less timely than the top headlines--things like buying guides, product round-ups, and Prizefights.
Next on the page is something that we've been calling "the river" because it essentially represents all the content CNET has published in an untouched stream, with the most recent content on top. At the top of this module you'll see some text 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.
One nice feature to highlight in the river is that when a new video floats by, you'll be able to watch it without leaving the page.
As noted with the redesign of CNET News, we are continuing our 15-year battle to have the right column be useful and not just a content ghetto. In the case of CNET.com, we're putting deals on various tech products into this space--keep your eyes peeled and you'll spot a nice deal on a Netbook or new TV.
So those are the highlights. As usual, we want your feedback, which we do take seriously, good or bad. Simply use the link on the page (for those who are part of the test) or leave a comment in this post.