More Messages: Cyber-Post

This week, the Denver Post launched its newly redesigned website. The project has been in the works for months, as Mark Cardwell, the paper's managing editor for digital media, confirmed in this August Message column. He noted that the site was being reworked to accomodate today's larger computer screens, and to fulfill the goals stated in a memo credited to an internal Post task force charged with taking the paper into the future: "the capacity to offer news to handhelds, feeds from web cams, searchable calendars and databases, more slide shows, live chats, faster updates and, especially, the capacity for users to individualize their DPO [Denver Post Online] experience."

That's all good and well -- but how does the new site look and work on a basic level? Visually, it's very clean and uncluttered, with plenty of white space. As such, it pretty much conforms to what's become the new standard for newspaper websites; there's very little that seems unique. However, the buttons for news, business, entertainment and so on are easy to use, the flashing animation isn't overwhelming, and the paper's emphasis on interactivity is underscored by a "Conversations+Comments+Blogs" box placed in a prominent position on the right side of the screen. In it, surfers will find a selection of recent posts on numerous topics -- and by putting some of them on the home page, the Post will likely inspire more participation.

The main drawback, then, is the time it takes to load pages. I went to a slew of different sections and articles, and in most cases, load time was between eight and twelve seconds. That's not horrendous, but neither is it a noticeable improvement. The Rocky Mountain News site loaded in pretty much the same time range, but the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and, yes, Westword were all considerably speedier, typically loading in six seconds or less.

The page devoted to readers' opinions about the Post redesign includes some flat-out kudos -- "I very much like the new look!" -- and lots of gripes -- "The new format is terrible! I cannot find a thing I normally read, such as Bronco News and other news updates." But the scope of the changes has more to do with the bitching than does the redesign itself. Overall, the work done by Cardwell and company seems solid, and readers should get used to it quickly. If only the pages loaded as fast... -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts