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A tale of two redesigns

Two major newspapers unveiled redesigns within hours of each other this week, and here's a brief look at the them.

latimes.com

The Los Angeles Times shifted from its ground-breaking use of a wide (about 300 pixels) left navigation which was inspiration for the latest iteration of CANOE's look.

Like CANOE, the latimes.com used to be driven "driven by a collection of Perl scripts, which generate[d] flat-file HTML pages", Robert Niles a senior producer with latimes.com told the online-news mailing list. One of the main reasons for the redesign, which features a thin left nav, is the site's switch to Tribune Interactive's Oxygen publishing system.

By changing to the a database system, the site can both more dynamic and better maintained. Notably, the move will free the online editors from the drudegry of cutting-and-pasting copy into HTML files, a regime that too many major content sites still practice.

Despite switching to a database-driven system, the latimes.com has succeeded in keeping legible URLs. For example this is the URL for a story about Webvan shutting down:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-071001webvan.story

Surprisingly, few site manage to clean the database-generated Web addresses.

For example, The Globe and Mail—the other major newspaper site to revamp its design—switched to a dtabase-managed system in its last major redesign, but still has illegible addresses. For a similar story about Webvan, here's the URL:

http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/GIS.Servlets.HTMLTemplate?tf=tgam/common/FullStory.html&cf=tgam/common/FullStory.cfg&configFileLoc=tgam/config&vg=BigAdVariableGenerator&date=20010710&dateOffset=&hub=business&title=Business&>cache_key=businessCanadian&current_row=3&start_row=3&num_rows=1

globeandmail.com

The Globe's new look, it is less a redesign than it is a polishing of the existing site.

The look from section to section is more consistent (a liquid design is now employed throughout), and most of the news sections use a strong palette of red, black, and grey. Perhaps the most notable move is the site's navigation improvements.

The left-hand navigation is broken into two distinct areas:

Sections which are featured under Breaking news include the main homepage, the Report on Business, Sports, and Technology (one of the few areas that seems relatively unchanged). This division is part of the Globe's ongoing efforts to strengthen its news presence.

The Breaking News stories are often produced by the print reporters and filed with the Web site as updates throughout the day. Though it's caused some dramatic changes in the way the newsroom operates, the move is laudable, especially when many newspaper Web sites stick to wire copy for updates throughout the day.

Despite, or perhaps because of the stronger emphasis on Web content, part of the redesign's goals were to make the printed edition more accessible. There are now two distinct ways to access that content:

What's interesting about these pages is that both include the page number the story is printed on in the paper, a simple but useful feature.