Dumbed down? Relaunched Guardian website encounters mostly negative online comments from readers

Reader comments about the newly redesigned Guardian website appear to have been overwhelmingly negative so far.

The new-look site launched today in the UK after having been rolled out to Australia and the US over the last few months.

In a comments thread underneath a story announcing the launch of the UK version of the site, user Demain44 said: "I really hate the 'new look' homepage. I don't like the font (face and size), the layout, the navigation. I can't find things I used to be able go to directly."

Suddenprayers criticised the use of images, saying: "You seem to have forgotten that people go to a newspaper/site to read. In two of my regular stopping places, letters and obituaries the precis have been replaced with images. Which tell me nothing."

ClintEastwood agreed, saying: "Yeah, looks horrible. I much preferred when it looked like a newspaper rather than this 'news website' style, like BBC news. Both are now hard to read & uninviting."

Delphinidae likened it to "walking up to a restaurant and discovering that the menu has been chopped up and a piece placed on each table", and Kellyseyenumberone said: "Do us all a favour and stick this site behind a paywall."

A minority of users were more positive about the change, including Sanat Gersappa, who said: "Love it. It is bold, responsive, modern and fast."

Web designer Woodenhifi agreed, saying more work needed to be done on the hierarchy of the main stories, but that in terms of its technical achievement and as a piece of design: "it's as close a website gets to a masterpiece".

The new-look site went live in America three months ago and in Australia at the end of November. The switch-over was completed today with the relaunch of the main UK edition.

Many of the comments on stories announcing the launch of these foreign versions of the site complain about an apparent lack of stories immediately present on the home page.

Peterhf, commenting the swtich-over of Guardian US to the new look,  said: “Whereas before you could maybe see 8-10 headlines on one screen, now you only get 2-4 which means much more scrolling and moving around.”

Another user, Joel Johnson, described the changes as annoying, unusable and obviously for phones, adding: “You've made the icons and photos huge, so the amount of content visible on the screen is very very small.”

The commenter went on to accuse the site of over-simplifying the look of the content: “Funny – for an intelligent source of information, you've dumbed things down!”

This claim was echoed by a number of other commenters, including ID8387339, who said: “Too many pictures. It makes me feel you think I am childish, or stupid, to need to be attracted by flash and baubles.”

Commenter Riboge said: “I am really put off by the dumbed-down new format deliberately putting less on a given screen, removing the news ticker I always checked first, and generally going info-tainment and low-attention-span mobile in approach.”

Guardian director of digital strategy Wolfgang Blau responded on one of the comment threads by pointing out that in fact more stories were immediately visible on the new home-page than on the old version, offering two screenshots with the stories highlighted as proof.

 

(Screenshot of the old Guardian home page)

 

(Screenshot of the new Guardian home page)

Another change users were critical of was a reduction in the number of visible items on the navigation bar and the moving of others behind an “all sections” button.

Sophieg27 asked: “Why are there links for soccer and fashion but none for science? This seems a little bizarre and frustrating, since I used to read the science section every day. When did fashion become more important than science?”

User Wongala added: “The old layout was much easier to navigate and find particular articles. Now it seems as though much is hidden away and has to be searched for, although I'm not sure how I am supposed to know it is there in the first place.”

The change of font to Guardian Egyptian alongside an increase in its size and spacing also met with negative criticism.

Tomper2 said: “The new text is far, far too big and spacey on my screen. It's actually quite uncomfortable to read.”

Commenter Thaumaturge added: “If I wanted text to be that large, I would adjust it myself.”

Others liked the font changes, including Cronista, who said: “Makes reading on a desktop screen much less of a strain and the layout is beguiling in its cleanliness. I wasn't sure about that novel typeface at first – it seemed too horizontal, lacking in ascenders and descenders – but I quickly grew to like it.”

Some readers felt the Guardian had not listened to feedback as it moved to replace the old site.

Phazer Cantlin said: “You've even published blog posts stating that the feedback was absolutely overwhelming that the font was too big and ugly. So you made it a few percent smaller, and the feedback has still been overwhelming. You promised action before it was launched, and then didn't do it, and lo and behold the font is still literally 33% bigger than it should be, and still pig ugly.”

Figolijac, a user on the Australian site, talks of the navigation, text and home-page interface complaints posted on the US site, adding: “In the month since, nothing seems to have been done to address these issues, and it's hard to have any faith it's even acknowledged as a problem.

Looking at the comment threads underneath stories announcing the launch of Australian  and US versions of the site positive feedback is hard to find.

Delirious said: “Sure, a couple of aspects take a little getting used to, but the design is so quick, clean, fresh and modern. After a while, switching back to the old design looked so cramped and dated.”

MichaelSantos96 added: “I love the new design; I don't know why people say it's cluttered.”

And Bluecamels said: “I've been flicking between the 'beta' and the 'old' version for some time now, and I've really got used to it. It has improved massively recently and it's now grown on me very quickly. Stick with it!”

A Guardian spokesperson did not wish to comment, but Press Gazette understands staff are not surprised by the negative reader comments and that the previous design (launched in 2007) encountered a similar response.

Development of the new site is said to be ongoing based on user feedback, information about which is available in the Guardian Next blog.

Comments

1 thought on “Dumbed down? Relaunched Guardian website encounters mostly negative online comments from readers”

  1. Click n scroll. Click n scroll. Click n scroll. Scroll n Click……..I mean click n scroll. That seems to be the fad for new websites.

    Today’s generation only knows how to program for phones imitating the Windows 8 Metro interface and are likely high on drugs or some other kind of strong stimulant when doing the coding. In that case it matches their level of thinking.

    Essentially these websites and many others are like monkeys on dope.

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