Web site design at Scripps sites (I used to work for Scripps) has been a slowly evolving process. If you look closely at any Scripps site, you’ll see elements that carry over from site to site. The Ventura County Star site looks a lot like the Corpus Christi site.
These are Scripps 2.0 sites, so to speak, with 1.0 sites being more primitive. You can check the evolution of the Star’s sites with these links: June 1997; Jan 2001; November 2004; May 2005.
Scripps is in a phase of building its 3.0 sites. In my opinion, the first 3.0 site was Knoxnews.com, launched a year ago or more. It features a less cluttered look, primary navigation on a horizontal bar, headlines without summaries, big box ads, large home page art, local search and a box at the bottom of the page that serves as a sort of site map, helping to cut scrolling.
TCPalm.com was the next site to get the 3.0 treatment, but it also evolved. There are a couple of nice artistic flourishes (but nothing detracting), more featured elements near the top of the page, and only the most important local headlines in the critical middle left of the page.
Now comes Evansville. This is easily Scripps best site yet. It takes all the Scripps team has learned over the years, drops it on a modern publishing system (Ellignton), and does a lot of things right. A small example: placement of the calendar. It’s in a location that is normally visually dead for most users, but is a strong visual element, drawing the eye to it, and robust calendars are such an important site element for newspaper sites — one that is a woeful weakness for many sites.
It’s a great color scheme, too. They’ve also enabled comments on stories (tied to registration), which I like. Next, they should add profiles for users.
I’d be curious, though, if the placement of the classified links is really working — it took me a minute to locate them, and I had some idea where to look.
I’ve also got to admit that I’m no longer convinced that headlines without story summaries is what the readers really want or will drive the most clicks. Of course, this is a bigger problem when news rooms won’t rewrite headlines for the Web. For example, the headline in this story is “Mr. Mom.” Without a subhead or summary, the headline doesn’t really work as a link. It offers too little information about the subject of the story.
Jay Small has more the redesign on his blog.