The Bee is in the middle of redesigning its news Web site, and we'd like to invite you to help us improve it. Over the next two months, before we launch the new sacbee.com in the fall, this blog will seek to tell and show you some of the changes we are planning, and ask users for suggestions and their reaction to the changes. After we launch the new site we'll continue to seek user feedback and suggestions.
Sacbee.com was last redesigned in the spring of 2006, and it's become more than clear from user feedback and the complaints we hear in our own newsroom that our site needs improvement. Among the top complaints we want to address is that users can't find content they know we have. A related complaint from users of the site: why don't we report on certain topics. Often, we do have the content users ask for, but with our current site it's not always easy to find.
With that in mind, one of the first things we wanted in a redesigned sacbee is a wider site (we'll be going from the current 700 pixels to 990) to display more content. We also wanted a home page that was more flexible in its design, and allowed news editors to better highlight the top news stories while also having space to promote content from our Features, Sports and Opinion sections, as well as the latest news from the wires.
We also wanted a home page that better reflected our efforts to be more aggressive about breaking news on sacbee, continually updating stories, producing more online-only content and seeking to interact with users a lot more. (We'll blog at a later date about user interaction on the new site, including some new social interactive tools we'll debut when the site launches.)
But rather than just tell you about some of our goals for a new sacbee, let me show you here what we have in mind. A few months ago we hired Navigation Arts to help us design a better site. We'll be making adjustments to the mockup you see below, but it is basically an early look at the new home page for sacbee.
Among the first things you'll notice are the blue tone and the new masthead with Scoopy. We think that's a big improvement in the look, but the top also makes its very clear you are at the news site for The Sacramento Bee, a trusted brand that has provided news to this region for more than 150 years. (The url will remain www.sacbee.com.)
Below the masthead is the navigation bar (forgive the typo on Capitol & California by Navigation Arts) that we think is cleaner-looking and will be easier to use than our current bar with the dropdown menu. The actual topics we'll have in our new navigation bar will differ from what you see in the mockup, but our goal will be to highlight those topics where we get lots of traffic and routinely have strong content.
The photo in the top left corner with the "Gas hits $4" headline (there are other stories below that) would be for the top news stories of the moment, as picked by news editors at The Bee. To the immediate right is a container for the latest stories editors have posted to the site. In this container we plan to give users some choices, including the ability to look at the stories that are drawing the most online traffic, the most comments or are being e-mailed the most.
Below the container with the latest stories will be an area to direct users to some of the best content that's not hard news. (Sorry, you can't see that in the mockup above.) To the right of this area will be a container for the latest posts by our bloggers and columnists. Like the container on the latest stories, users will be given choices on how they want to search for columns or blogs.
Below the news stories and directory of features content will be a container the width of the site that holds our multimedia work, comics and puzzles as well as photos and video submitted by users. Again, we're planning to give users choices on how they want to search for content in this multimedia bar.
Under the bar, we'll be putting in containers on the latest stories from the wires, with topics like World News, Business, Sports, Entertainment. Those containers will automatically update every few minutes with the latest stories from the Associated Press.
To get a better idea of what our new full home page home page might look like, check out our sister paper's site, The Charlotte Observer. Navigation Arts also designed that site. Our site won't look quite be the same, but it will look like a cousin of the Charlotte site.
So that's a look at where we are headed with the new sacbee home page. Got ideas to help us make it even better? Tell us about why you come to sacbee and what you want to see and find on the home page. Point us to other news home pages you like, and tell us why you like them. Or give us a list of the five most important things you think should be on our new home page. You can share your thoughts in our comments field below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.