Our topic this week is how clean and functional is Slate? The short answer is its quite functional, but perhaps not so clean. As I have mentioned in previous posts on this blog it is one of the busiest online journalism sites I have ever seen. While I have learned to work with the site, and even come to appreciate some of its quirks, I have to say that for first time users it is really extremely confusing.
By way of example; the front pages of Slate, The New York Times and NPR are very different. While all three online publications have a basic three panel layout, Slate looks much different to me than the other two sites. It also, at least to my eye, appears more cluttered.
The Times and NPR are laid out more like a traditional newspaper. Slate has gone in an entirely different direction. There is much more interactivity here than on the other two sites. And there is also something else at work here. Namely, that Slate is a different animal from the other two aforementioned online sites. I think it speaks to the fact Slate clearly views itself as a “media” site and not necessarily as a pure ” news” site.
Having been brought up with newspapers, its the format I find most comfortable and easiest to use. From a design standpoint it may not be as functional as Slate with its many buttons but its just more pleasing to me. I will acknowledge that some of this might be age and prejudice on my part. However, I also find the traditional newspaper format easier to navigate than a format like Slate’s.
So at least in my case form comes before function, which is one of the problems I have with Slate. In this case it really is a matter of perception though, since I’am sure there are plenty of people who find the New York Times website to be quite stodgy.
I think this is the topic I will ultimately pursue when I interview the folks at Slate. Why did you design the website the way you did? Could be an interesting discussion.