On a Saturday the New York Times technology news page and Yahoo’s technology news page are very similar in content, but could not be more different in design. The differences are telling.
The New York Times tech news page is dominated by wire stories from AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg, with a sprinkling of NYT-generated content. Yahoo’s tech news is, of course, exclusively wire content. Both, as far as I know, are edited by human beings. Each page has about half-a-dozen stories above the fold, in the first screenful of information. The two pages seem to have a lot of the same stories on them.
Why do I like the NYT page so much better?
The NYT page is better-designed. It uses Times (naturally), and Yahoo uses Arial, Microsoft’s ugly, cheapskate Helvetica knockoff.
The Times gives you more information about its top stories. The Times has summaries of the top stories and has headlines-only stories below the fold, but Yahoo has only one summary above the fold, followed headlines, and then most of its summaries below the fold.
The NYT page is denser. I love white space and the Web gives us the chance to create lots of it, but news pages want to be information-rich. Also, Yahoo’s white space seems to be the random space between automatically-generated text fields. Navigation bars should be easy to find, but the least-prominent thing on the page. NYT’s navigation bar is much tighter than Yahoo’s, using condensed roman sans serif (Arial, alas). Yahoo’s nav bar text is wide and bold.
Yahoo has a much more prominent ad on its tech page, but I don’t see that as an issue. The problem is what Yahoo does with the space it has.
It’s hard to tell how much of Yahoo News’s design problems stem from Yahoo’s trademark design. My guess is that they don’t have much control over fonts.
But I would like to higher information density on Yahoo’s news pages, more summaries above the fold, a narrower nav bar. Google’s tech news solves a lot of these problems, but the automated story selection is not nearly as effective as Yahoo’s human editors.