Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sites that work and those that don't

Bloomberg News this morning unveiled a redesign of its Web site. It's worth taking a look at, no matter what your beat. Bloomberg operates television and radio networks in addition to its signature "professional service," the subscription-only news and information service. And that makes them the king of convergence. Few companies produce more print, audio and video content (the BBC, perhaps? ) And certainly no one has done it better or more profitably. And it's always worth remembering that before there was Web journalism, Bloomberg was making money sending news to users' computer screens.

Regular readers of this blog know I'm a big fan of the professional service, and I've argued it serves as a useful guide for the next generation of user interfaces. But don't expect anything quite so grand from the Web site. Bloomberg offers very little for free. So the new and improved site is less than compelling.

However, B2B journalists should make note of two things about the redesign. First, Bloomberg is giving far more prominent space to its video content. Every journalist at Bloomberg is required to have some basic audio and video skills. And I expect that will soon be true of every journalist everywhere.

Second, the site features an unusual gold-on-black design. I love the look, which evokes computer screens of old. More importantly, the site is a welcome relief from the tiny-text, multiple-headline mess that I see on so many news sites.

I expect to see even better things soon at CNBC, which has hired Webby winner Meredith Stark to run its Web site. Stark joins the news network from Gartner, where she was group vice president, product platforms.

But amid this positive news about the Web sites of our financial-news brothers, there is more disappointing news about the Web sites of B2B. A new report from Jakob Nielsen and the Nielsen Norman Group says B2B sites are plagued by lengthy registration forms and bad design. B2B sites "haven't realized yet that the web has reversed the relationship between companies and their customers, where most interactions are demand-driven and you either give people what they want or see them abandon your site for the competition," the report says.

Granted, the study is about B2B sites in general, not just B2B media sites. But take a look at this article on the report. Then look at your sites -- news, data, whatever -- and ask if you 're truly serving your users.

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