User experience, web, technology

Newsweek’s Spring 2010 Website Redesign

Home page of, May 31, 2010
Home page of, May 31, 2010

I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but was recently redesigned. There is so much to say about it, and it is mostly good.

I’ll start with the most obvious: the design.

In short, the home page is easy to scan. There is a clear visual hierarchy. The lead photos and articles have been spot-on for Memorial Day news items, and the clarity of the layout made certain I couldn’t miss them.

The article pages are easy to read and keep enough of the patterns, like the byline and publication date, that it’s easy to figure out what’s what.

My biggest complaint is one that they no doubt haven’t figured out how to get rid of yet: the banner ads.

There’s more talk about the visuals for the new at I won’t go on about that, myself, other than to say, gee, it looks like a professional blog. Oddly, that’s a compliment.

Now let’s look at the markup.

Code for namespaces on's namespaces point to interesting uses of meta data.

I’ve had a penchant for information architecture since the late 1990s, and about the first thing I noticed when glancing at the markup for the home page is the references to the Dublin Core meta data definitions and other meta data sets.

I was suddenly intrigued. Good use of meta data is sadly absent in many large-scale websites, and it’s really great to see an effort to play the game for real.

So, at a quick glance through the markup you’ll notice some unusual pieces, first this:
data-track="{'title':'stories being discussed'}", which is an attribute with a value that looks a bit like JSON.

I admit to being behind the times with studying HTML 5, but that attribute spurred my suspicion that this page was using HTML 5. I stopped wondering a few lines later when I spotted an article element, followed soon thereafter by a header element, and a nav element sporting an attribute of role="navigation". Whoa. Newsweek jumped right in.

So what about the meta data? Well, I can’t really know what they’re actually doing, but here is an observation. In a sidebar, they have a list of quotes. Each quote is marked up as a blockquote with an id attribute. Following each quote is a span with attributes like property="dc:creator" and about="#q1". The about attribute refers to the id of the blockquote in question. The content of that span itself is the name of the quoted person, plus which publication the quote came from.

Pretty cool idea: internal markup references like this can build relationships into the content. It could provide some interesting opportunities for parsing later on. Yeah, that’s right, the semantic web.

The problem with this all is…it’s half-baked! meta tags, bad markup used "http-equiv" when they needed "name". Oops.

That list of quotes with the ID attributes? All that meta data is duplicated and thereby meaningless! Further, why use a span element when they could have used a cite element? More semantic and those attributes would’ve played as well. Gah!

And back at the top of the markup by those meta data namespace references there is another set of meta tag elements which are sadly marked up incorrectly.

There is a stack of 5 meta elements that use the http-equiv attribute when they should have used the name attribute. I’ll bet whoever coded that knows the difference, but I wonder if they were rushed to get this version out. It feels like a beta.

They are so close to providing some really great examples of meta data use in HTML 5! I hope they release another version soon that gets more precise and cleans up some of this code.