Thursday, November 25, 2010

Newspaper Usability

Daily newspapers are struggling, perhaps even dying. There are a lot of reasons for that, related to the internet and various broadcast media alternatives. I have one more to offer, however: usability. The plain fact is that newspapers are physically inconvenient to "use". The big problems:

  1. Form factor. The "broadsheet" form is just incredibly inconvenient for today's on-the-go lifestyle. My gold standard for readably form factor is the thin, staple-bound magazine, where all page-manipulation actions can be managed one-handed. But even the "tabloid" form would be an improvement.
  2. Article continuation. Having to flip to another page within the section--and even worse, sometimes in another, physically separate section--is horrible. Of course it horribleness is severely compounded by the Form Factor problem.

The sad part? These are self-inflicted wounds. The newspapers don't have to be this way, they do it by design. In my book, that's bad karma.. Making your product deliberately worse, because it seems to serve your business interests and you think you can lead your customers around with a ring-in-their-nose. Sooner or later, it will blow up in your face.

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