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Monday, September 8, 2008

A few words on the Herald's little blue box

One of the things I like about is the blue tinted panel that appears in story pages and lists other headlines you can click directly through to.

I like it because I can work my way through a dozen stories without having to click back to the homepage or section page in between each one - something that drives me nuts on other news sites.

It strikes me as a rare example of a feature that works as well for users as it does for the publisher - the user gets a seamless reading experience, the publisher gets increased cross-site traffic. I genuinely do read more stories in a single session on than I do on other sites because of this little blue box.

There are a few kinks in the feature, though, which I'd love to see ironed out.

The panel includes 'Stories you might be interested in', which is a great idea in theory but this morning while reading about why Oprah Winfrey won't interview Cain running mate Sarah Palin, the panel suggested I read 'Clinton turns guns on surging rival'. I clicked to find out why Clinton was in the picture at all at the moment, only to find the story was seven months old. Not helpful - perhaps time period could be added as a parameter for these otherwise useful suggestions?

Another irritation is the way the blue panel defaults to headlines for the current story's section (News, World, Business etc). So if you are reading through the main News stories of the day and click through to one that is categorised as World, the blue panel will default to World headlines and you have to click back to the homepage to pick up the News thread again.

This would be easily fixed by adding a link to News Headlines (or headlines from whichever section you were last in) somewhere in the panel.

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