News, Lingerie, and Role Playing. Really.
Slashpix, anchor for www.news2.ca, reports,
The idea behind this site is really simple; to create a community organized web application that would be powered by users. All users together act as administrators, which decide whatever to promote news or delete it. Therefore only interesting news would end up on main page. Users can promote news by simply voting for it. Users can also submit news that is related to already existed categories.
I just wonder if you can review this website.
Slash, there's one thing that Canadians are really good at aside from hockey and lumberjacking, and that's being on top of things. Like America, for instance (in a geographical sense, of course). You seem to be on top of things with this news site. While the concept isn't new (see digg.com), and the design is kinda plain, I still believe that this site has some potential. However, usually what separates sites with potential from one another is not a colander, as previously believed, but whether or not they do anything about their potential. Think about it as putting a brazier on your site. You need to raise your site up, and separate [yourself from the crowd]. One way to do this is to pick a really sexy bra, like one that will make people really want to see more (I am loving this metaphor). Maybe throw on a little lingerie over it with some velcr...okay, now I'm just fantasizing, and it's weirding me out. Don't worry, readers, I was definitely not imagining a website wearing lingerie, because that would be filthy and creepy and I'm going to stop this sentence now.
So, Slash, how can you improve your site? Well, several ways. First, as I so creepily suggested earlier, come up with an engaging design. You can even go so far as to completely scrap the design you have now and just sit down and think about a design completely independent from what Digg has (but for the love of White Castle, not in that order). The importance of this is far-reaching; normally I emphasize to submitores (soob-mih-TORE-ehs [don't pretend you don't know how to pronounce that last syllable, eh?]) to work on their content first and their design later, but since your content is pretty much user generated, it's time to work on that design. Right now I go to your site and I think, I'm hungry, and then I think, oh, a Digg knockoff (completely independent thoughts, sorry). I do like the site preview on mouseover, but you don't even have anything there indicating that this is even possible. Also, this feature breaks in Opera, where if the user mouses over the area where the preview is supposed to display, the picture shows up instead of only on mouseover of the link.
Oh, you also have some pretty horrific coding. You declare that the site is XHTML 1.0 Transitional, but you clearly do not follow any of the protocols required by this Doctype. This is surprising, especially for as simple as your layout is. It shouldn't take much to set up a very simple div layout with some CSS classes and have a unique, scalable, and beautiful design.
And while you're at restructuring your code, you might as well try to refigure your navigation, and maybe your overall functionality, which is a bit, how you say, wonky. Upon arriving at the site, the user is presented with three navigation buttons, an ambiguous search box, and a few news stories, with some peripheral information on the side.
Let's pretend now that we're role-playing (don't worry, no mention of lingerie to follow). First, I'm going to be the insecure high school freshman who wants to see the "Popular News" aka your first navigation button, so I click it while thinking about video games and senior girls. Hmm...nothing happens. Click. Click. Clickclickclick. Wait a second (voice crack), this links to the homepage! If this is "popular news", why does the first news story only have three votes, and the one under it have five? You mean to tell me that the most popular news stories you have have three and five votes? Clearly this is not the case, and is something you should look into.
Next, I will be an information-hungry CEO needing my news right this moment so I can make mission-critical decisions while I sip my $10 latte out of my gilded mug made out of rubies and mink fur. I click on "Breaking News", cellphones already out of both breast pockets of my custom-tailored, double-breasted suit (with power tie, mind you), eager to fire off calls to my #2 through #7 guys to get things going based on the news from...two days ago? Huh? Where's the news from one minute ago? Where's the news about my stock crashing/skyrocketing because of a goat in Iran having a kid that looks like Mother Theresa? I believe there may be something funky in your algorithm, because the news I see in the "Breaking News" section, while news, is hardly breaking.
I would then move your categories up to the top (or under your "what is" module) and below them, actually put in a sampling of what is in your so-called "tool box", ie, show a sample tag cloud, show the first few "top story" links, and show the first few "top users", all with links that say "See more" that take you to a page with the full results on it. This would be FAR more intriguing than just seeing a link that says that stuff is there. I want to taste it and swish it around my mouth a little before I take another bite, and maybe sometimes a nibble is all I want.
One last thing I'll mention before concluding this review is that you have this love of white space. While at times this can be good, in your case, you are misusing it. In the space you use to display one story, sites like Digg display three or four. Your page is so long because you s p r e a d e v e r y t h i n g o u t so much. Tighten up your whitespace a bit (if you plan on keeping your current design) and you'll notice huge improvements in usability and in people actually getting to story number ten. Oh, and, uh, your logo? Yeah, the reflection should look a little bit more like a reflection. Right now it looks like you have "News 2.0" standing on top of the Russian version, which happens to be in version number "backwards-7.0".
Overall, like I mentioned earlier, any site utilizing this idea has the ability to take off. But, with a market this saturated (Digg, del.icio.us, Magnolia, Spurl, Furl, Girl, Jurl, Purl, etc etc) you have to come up with something truly unique to set yourself apart from the crowd, or you'll never make it into the congeries of little bookmarking icons that adorn the ends of most bloggers' posts. Can you do it? Well, that's up to you. Let's see if the Canadian in you helps you come out on top.