What would you do to make The Irish Times better? redux Hmmm…
Your very interesting and provocative comments on the last post have caused a lot of soul-searching in here – thanks to everyone. As I said (comment 85 if you’re so inclined) there’s a few meaty subjects around improving the website, which I grouped into key subjects, one of which (navigation and architecture), I’ll have a first stab at responding to here.
Just to say also that I enjoyed the pungent views on display. Although there was a certain amount of vitriol, it was all in pretty good humour, and there was plenty of positive stuff as well.
A couple of observations - it’s not my job to defend/analyse particular parts of The Irish Times, but obviously like everyone there’s bits I like and read more than other bits. The animosity towards the Saturday magazine expressed in comments is intriguing, though, and has caused some consternation, as the picture below shows.
I hope you’re all very proud of yourselves…
It’s not for me to disagree, but I wonder if this reflects different interests and priorities between, on the one hand, readers of Irish Times blogs, and on the other, readers of the print edition on Saturday (who do genuinely seem to enjoy the mag). Whatever, there’s clearly a gender divide within the pro/con comments.
Anyway, that’s for another day. As regards navigation and architecture, I hold up my hands. It’s not good, it’s behind the times, it sometimes seems to deliberately make it difficult for you to find what you’re looking for.
Without going into the tortuous history, we currently populate the site via a number of systems – a newspaper publishing system, a content management system for the bulk of online content, a separate system for breaking news – which don’t talk to each other very well and which militate against the sort of data-rich presentation which would allow us to group and present content in a proper way. It’s … clunky.
This is a major challenge for us. If we’re going to give you the best site possible, we need to develop our technology quite fast. We’re working on it, and in the interim are building some workarounds to allow us to give you content in a better way.
Currently, the site’s structure is very rooted in the newspaper’s structure. Some people may like this replication of certain daily supplements and pages, but it makes very little sense online. For example, at the moment you could read a Donald Clarke film interview in any of the following sections within Life & Culture: Entertainment, Features, Magazine or Weekend. That’s just plain silly, and we’ll be introducing a new way of doing business in those areas within the next month. I make no apology for the fact that our focus is on improving presentation of the main site, and not necessarily the Today’s Paper section. My job is to give people the best possible online experience of The Irish Times, not to make a faithful replica of the paper. Most of you can get that at your local newsagent for a very reasonable price. Likewise, you can get a digital representation of the physical paper online for a modest fee.
People have also asked why they can’t search within particular sections, or bring up all articles/columns by a particular writer on one page. Good questions, and as we add data and categorisation tools to articles, we will be able to do more of that. Unfortunately, it won’t happen overnight, so I ask for your patience.