I’ve been trying to weigh which side of this coin I was going to choose. Do I love the new Cyclingnews.com redesign or do I hate it. Unfortunately being a long time user I quickly fall into the “I hate change!” crowd. I like knowing that where the top stories are and where the race results reside and I expect them to be there every time.

That being said, the first time wife looked at the original (old) site all she could say was, “What the **** is that?!” For a newcomer it was a disaster. There was TOO much information on that front page and it was all up in your grill. To grow their following and unique visits they eventually had to break out of a layout/interface that hasn’t really changed since Cyclingnews started.

So here we are with Future Publishing’s redesigned Cyclingnews website. Future Publishing acquired Cyclingnews from Knapp Communications in July of 2007. Longtime fans of CN have been holding their collective breaths that this day would never come but it’s here, so let’s take a look:

1. It’s ugly. Period.

Cyclingnews.com HomepageIt looks as though they tried to keep the colors of the previous site (not much) and mash it together with their sister-site BikeRadar.com. It looks like a rainy off-season day. Yay! They’ve taken a vibrant world sport and slapped a fresh coat of monotone ass on it. When they actually used color its ends up being the background, which is also atrocious! The text is obscured on a 15″ laptop screen and the image is HORRIFICALLY faded into white. Just get rid of it. It serves no purpose while being detrimental to the overall appearance. I’m sure I’ll hit the color scheme some more down this list.

2. The dynamic content box is Flash. And it’s ugly.

Cyclingnews.com content galleryI don’t get why people think it’s a good idea to create content sliders/galleries/whatever in Flash. It has to be installed in the viewer’s browser. If it’s not, then they see nothing but a notice that they need to download the Flash player. If it was coded in a JavaScript library like jQuery then it has WAY more chance of reaching the viewer. Even if they have JS turned off, the slider degrades gracefully into the unordered list it was created with. The viewer still sees the content. That would be a good thing.

Adding to the visual mud is a “technique” that the designers first used on BikeRadar. To separate the links/text on the left from the images on the right, they’ve used another muddled fade/transition. Just make the separator a clean line so it doesn’t look like you’re using Photoshop for the first time. Or make the background of the text dark enough that it pops out from the image. Simple and clean.

3. Typography? What typography?

Cyclingnews.com TypographyIf you’re going to make a change for the “better” then you have to cover everything. While the structure of the home page promotes a visual/content hierarchy the typo does not. They use more gray as background to section headers which does its job decently. But the font size is only 2 pixels larger than the body copy or race information. When you reach the individual race headers you can’t make them noticeably smaller than the section header since that’s already minuscule. Granted they are a different color and set in bold but the purple used is almost gray.

As a magazine style layout the type should be set to display clear delineations between section headers, paragraph titles and copy. This site does not go far enough to make that obvious and dynamic. It in turn makes the content on the home page look similar and uninteresting. To their credit however, they maintained the traditional page structure of a blog post on the article pages. The post title is clearly that since a much larger font in the color black is used.

4. Hooray, there’s a menu! Crap, there’s no usability.

Cyclingnews.com MenuMoving back up the page a little, we have to look at a welcome newcomer to the Cyclingnews.com visual family: a navigation menu. To be fair, a menu did exist before, but do you remember it? Did you ever use it?

So now we have this menu to choose from which is actually a win for them. But they kill it, making it virtually unusable by not including hover-states for the block of the menu. Sure there’s an underline that pops up when you caress it with your pointer, but that’s it. No color change in the text, nor a nice big color change on the background of the menu choice – a common attribute on many website nav bars in the modern era.

5. There are some good things though.

The site desperately needed to be modernized. The problem when making ANY changes to something people use everyday is that people will always complain. Granted there are some fundamental things wrong with this site now, but they were worse before. We were just used to the layout and format. Just because we’re used to something doesn’t mean it’s right or that it works.

The site desperately needed a traditional navigation menu. Now you can filter your news by type of cycling genre. These choices are immediately reflected on the home page with a relative change in the dynamic content box. Before you were dumped into a disastrous link-fest page which you know you balked at the first time you saw it.
Along the lines of the navigation, they’ve also added a nice breadcrumb page link trail to each inner page. That definitely helps your navigation within the inner pages.Cyclingnews.com Breadcrumbs
As web designer/developer I know the need and value to get viewers deeper into the site. The previous site only catered to our immediate race results cravings. Now you have a multitude of options to experience the vast amount of information that Cyclingnews collects regarding our favorite sport. If you’re a cynic claiming that more pages means more chances to place ads – then you’re right. More ads mean that the site is paid for and will exist for us to complain about. Otherwise, no sponsors, no site. It costs a LOT of money to run a site with this type of daily viewership and its inherent bandwidth needs.

My favorite change to the site is a consistent header with a logo. Rule #1 is to make your logo prominent and most importantly LINKED TO THE HOME PAGE!

Last thought.

Think hard; if you opened a site like the old Cyclingnews today, regardless of the content, would you stay or go? Most likely you’d go to the next suggestion you found on Google. If you prefer the look of the old one simply becuase you don’t like change even if Cyclingnews gets the layout and information access perfected, then enjoy the rest of your life on the net. I feel sorry for you.

In the end I’d classify myself as a firm “meh”. I’ve always wanted CN to redesign the site, I just think the new version needs some tweaking. And a tweaking they will do, otherwise they’ll lose viewership on the most visited cycling news portal on the net.

Disclaimer*

For those about to rock out on this post and call me out on this site’s design – you’re more than welcome. I design and develop sites for a living. This site, however, makes me no money. I have no time to apply any substantial effort into this site. So I’m slowly tailoring this WordPress template by kailoon to suit my needs. I’m allowed to take a break on my own projects don’t you think?

If you’re just here to talk ****, then enjoy being that guy. Your family must be proud.

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