I often read comments on Digg and Slashdot about the poor quality of some news site therefore I've come up with five golden rules for any news site:

1. Put the Entire Article on One Page

This must be one of the main gripes when it comes to reading articles on-line. It frustrates me, you start reading an article then for some reason it stops and you have to wait for the next page to load. There is no logical reason to it, almost everyone has scroll wheels and the concept of scrolling is well know with operating systems so why do news sites think they need to break up an article into two or more pages?

Rarely do I click past the first page of an article unless its really good, surely their site statistics tell a similar story for most users.

Good: BBC, Techcrunch

The BBC among others get this right providing the whole article on just one page

Bad
: Reuters

Reuters do have a 'read as one page' link however if its only a two page article it is defunct anyway. It's sites like Reuters that make me sympathise with Adblock users.

2. Use Large Images

Good: Boston.com

Boston.com's big picture features are an amazing way to display images. Their recent Earth Hour article even allowed you to click on the images to see a before and after shot.

Bad
: BBC

In a recent BBC survey one of the main points that came up was the size of the images within their articles so in their redesign the BBC added 20% to the size of the image. Unfortunately this is still 200% too small, I wouldn't mind if it was a thumbnail link or they made use of a lightbox like on the DailyMail website.

3. Don't use Slide shows for Images

This is mainly aimed at Forbes.com, their content is good but they display it in the worst way possible.

Good: Almost every site apart from Forbes.

Bad: Forbes

Its bad enough that they use a slide show in an inappropriate way but to make it auto run and the controls barely work is a total waste of what could be good content.

4. Provide External Links Within the Article

Good: Mashable, Techcrunch, Cnet News.com
Bad: BBC, Yahoo, ITN

The BBC waste precious sidebar content with an 'External Links' section, rather than reading the article and clicking on something that interests me I have to search the sidebar for a potential link.

5.Write about something on-line without Linking to it

Bad: BBC

A number of news site do this, especially when they are covering something slightly controversial. For instance the article talks about a video on YouTube yet fails to provide a link to it. Its like talking about an architecturally stunning building/landmark without providing a picture.

This article from the BBC about Two students who dressed up as the TV character Borat then put the video online is a prime example, the BBC talk about the video online yet fail to provide a link to it.

Comments

"Rarely do I click past the first page of an article unless its really good, surely their site statistics tell a similar story for most users."

You've kind of answered your own question by saying that. Breaking up an article into multiple pages in the hope that people won't read past the first page will reduce database strain and bandwidth because there'll be less content to serve each time someone starts reading an article. Obviously if everyone read every page of every article, there would be no difference, but clearly this is not the case so it works.

The performance you would gain in that sort of sql statement is so minimal that even on a site wilh millions of views its hardly worth doing. The same can be said with the bandwidth - most of its taken up with the template rather than the content. I can imagine for those that do click past the first page that the resulting extra load serving the template/images/ads far out weighs any benefit as you suggest.

Do I hear echos of Pete Every's HCI lectures ?

I agree with you 100 percent, maybe google could rank sites by usability scores.

Interesting article Pete. I do enjoy reading the news off the BBC website every morning. And it might just be me but I never came accross pages that could of had links to certain media they could of provided, not to say there isn't though. I do agree with Sam on the bandwidth, however if the content is to be just text then I can't see why they couldn't just provide the whole article in one than just splitting it into pages, or even better have a bit of the content and have some javascript to be clever enough to expand the web page with the rest of the content, sorta like a read more link sorta thing. Anyways talking of Digg and Slashdot, you should provide the features to your web site to submit news articles to Digg and Slashdot. I enjoy coming on this site to read what you have to say, and would support you in getting noticed on Digg etc Cool

Chrisy Da Boy

Cheers for the comment Chris, I've added in the Share/Save widget - seems to work well. I think I scrapped it when I was cutting back on the blog bloat about 2 months ago.

Ranking by usability score would be very hard and not the sort of thing you can automate.

I really hate slideshows.  That might be my number 1 thing that irritates me most with no links a very close second.  Come on newspapers.  Get it together.