Friday, March 30, 1 p.m. ET

washingtonpost.com Redesign

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Paul Compton
Creative Director, washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 30, 2007; 1:00 PM

washingtonpost.com creative director Paul Compton will be online Friday, March 30 at 1 p.m. to discuss the Web site's new design.

A transcript follows.

Editor's note: About our new redesign.

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Gallery Place: Can you add a link to the Live discussions on the homepage? I didn't see a link listed and had to hunt around to get today's list. Thanks!

Paul Compton: There is a Discussions module on the left side just under Opinions. Clicking the word Discussions will take you there. Also, in the global navigation, under News, Discussions is listed so that can be accessed from anywhere in the site.

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Bethesda, Md.: Paul, I'm sure you're a very bright gentleman and you put in many hours of hard work on this redesign. However, I have to say the redesign missed on the most important item. A redesign should make the site easier to use. The redesign makes it much more difficult to find information. It seems you've taken information off the main page to get users to click through to another page for more information before making yet another click to get to the information needed. So all you're done is add a layer of click throughs so you could add more advertising space. You will drive people away from the site by complicating what was a very good and easy to use site. Your redesign is a failure with this WashPost.com user. Please switch back to the most recent format.

Paul Compton: In reality, there is very little that we've trimmed from the previous design. We've actaully added content, such as the multimedia and features modules, where there is an increase of offerings. In the lower section links, we trimmed from 3 headlines to 2.

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Farragut West: Anytime you redesign, it seems the goal is to get more hits. Do you really measure your worth in the amount of clicks on a computer? It is so user-UNfriendly.

Paul Compton: True we want more clicks and we understand how important ease-of-use is to acheiving that goal. You didn't mention what is un-user-friendly about it. We user tested it extensively and got a lot of positive feedback on it being more usable than before.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Compton -- as a fellow aesthete and design devotee, I applaud the Post for being among the world's leaders in visual presentation of information. While I am still getting used to the new design, it is obvious that it was intended to lighten the page and to create a cleaner environment more navigable for a new user. Many of us longtime readers will miss the density of information and the sheer variety of content reachable in one click from the opening page. Do you find differences in preference between longtime users and newer users along these lines?

Paul Compton: It's interesting what you say about density of content. Some folks like it, and some find it harder to consume. We think that giving content a little breathing room is a good idea. I can't say anything conclusive about long time viewers verses newcomers. It's seems to be very individual what change people like or dislike.

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Washington, D.C.: More and more space for ads and "lifestyle" junk, less and less for news. Not what this reader wants!

Paul Compton:"Junk" to one viewer is a treasure to another. We offer a mix knowing that the usage varies by people. Also, the same people use the site different ways at different times.

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Washington, D.C.: Why did you remove the "Politics" subheading? That's sort of an area of interest to a lot of us Washington-ites!!

Paul Compton: In the lower link sets, we removed Politics from the list because it is well represented in the top news table.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you gotten any feedback about moving the list of live discussions off the main page? It was really a big convenience to be able to see all the day's chats without having to click to another page. A minor point, but definitely the first thing I noticed. Otherwise, I think it looks good.

Paul Compton: Yes, to be totally up front, that has been voiced many times and is something we will pay attention to. The beauty of the Web is it's a medium where we can hear from our audience and respond with change.

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Washington, D.C.: Why doesn't the new design list all the discussions that are taking place? If I wasn't looking around, I wouldn't have found this one. How are you going to alert your readers to discussions on special topics since it doesn't appear that you will be listing them on the homepage?

Paul Compton: We've raised where Discussions is located on the page but chosen to put the link "Schedule" there so viewers can link to the full schedule of that day. So it's true you can't scan the condensed version of the schedule from the home page but it's a simple click to get a more in-depth explanation.

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Albuquerque, N.M.: Did you do any heat mapping to see if users will ever click on the multimedia navigation bars to see the hidden content.

Do you really expect readers to find the hidden videos or are they really there just so you can tell your reporters that they're on the front page?

Paul Compton: We do have tracking takes to monitor the clicks to content that is not visible at first. We will monitor that data to see how viewers are interacting. I think we will find that folks interested in multimedia and features will enjoy having more choices.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey, it's just like CNN.com, except more fractured & with advertising mixed in EVERYWHERE, rather than just neatly around the margins.

Seriously, why is there such a confusing clutter of text, links, boxes, pictures, dotted lines, straight lines, scrolling video-and-story bars, etc.? You seem to have lost the cleaner look of the last version for a flashier but more confusing layout.

Paul Compton: I wonder if you were an advertiser, whether having your ad "neatly in the margins" is what you would want. We work hard to distribute content of all types within the page design so that things are clear what they are and there is good distribution of viewing the overall page, not just certain parts.

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Greeneville, Tenn.: How long did it take you to complete this design? Was it done by a design team? Did you have a beta site running the new version before it went live?

Paul Compton: Great question. It was done over a period of several months. Many designers were involved and we did surveys and user testing.

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Washington, D.C.: I would like to see the current Washington, D.C. temperature right at the top -- next to the weather button. This way I need not search around for the current temp, and the reloads update this info as well.

Please put it back where it has been for so many years. Thanks.

Paul Compton: The temperature is visible if you are viewing the "Washington" home page version. We don't show it in the "U.S./World" version of the home page. Thanks for your point. It's worth discussing whether we should keep in on both versions.

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Takoma Park, Md.: You're not asking advertisers their opinion here, you're asking users. Be ad-driven if you like, but don't tell us it is for our own good. It isn't.

Paul Compton: I find it interesting that you see users and advertisers as two distinct groups. I'm sure that many of our advertisers are also our viewers. I look at advertisers as "us" not "them".

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Anonymous: What, in your mind, drives the need to initiate a redesign? Don't you risk slightly angering readers with too many changes too often? Every time WP online is redone, I try very hard to ignore the feelings of frustration that inevitably come with any kind of change, waiting to see if the new design has indeed been an improvement. I wonder how many other readers just get instantly upset.

Once you have redesigned aspects of the site, do you do any sort of usability testing to quantify the success of the new design? What quantifiable measures do you use to confirm that a redesign is successful?

Paul Compton: We haven't done a substantial redesign of our home page in years. The reason we change is to better align ourselves with current realities. I have all our previous home page saved on my computer. I can say with certainty that it wouldn't be best to go back in time. Every time we change, it obviously takes some adjustment, but that's the Web. It's not a fixed medium, it is a living breathing medium.

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Columbia, Md.: I was thrown off yesterday afternoon when I went to the Web site. Seems like everything has moved and everything is harder to find. Maybe it will be better once I get used to it.

But one thing I really liked before was the listing of the live chats each day with the times next to them. It was on the main page and easy to find. Now one has to first find the place to click, then see the schedule. Much better when you could see it at a glance.

Paul Compton: I love when I hear people say "maybe it will be better once I get used to it". It's funny, there's no way to change something without there being some form of a learning curve. Some viewers flow with it and enjoy seeing evolution, others go into panic mode..."where is my stuff?" In actuality, this home page is not a huge change in terms of placement and content. A great deal of the page is quite similar but may be visually styled a little more modern. We've added some things but subtracted very little.

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Washington, D.C.: "Paul Compton: I find it interesting that you see users and advertisers as two distinct groups. I'm sure that many of our advertisers are also our viewers. I look at advertisers as "us" not "them"."

I would venture to guess that of the universe of all your users, the percentage who are also advertisers is small. Be upfront and honest about your motivations ... WP.com is a business that has to make money. I get that.

Don't blow smoke by telling me that there's no difference in the wants and needs of readers and advertisers, that we are all one big happy group. As a reader, my ideal would be no ads to get between me and the content. (I, personally, would be happy to pay to subscribe to a low-ad or no-ad Web site.) For an advertiser, the ideal would be maximum ad and the absolute minimum content required to draw the eyeballs.

We aren't stupid out here -- we know the difference. Don't condescend.

Paul Compton: The reality, as I see it, is that we want and need a large audience, and without that, we wouldn't have the reach which is so appealing to our advertisers. Yes we are a business and the site is free to our audience. One of the greatest challenges I have designing the site is striking a harmonious balance between important forces. Sometimes viewers goals, editorial goals, and advertiser goals naturally conflict with one another. That's the world we are in. My goal is to be the best we can be at respecting all forces and making them work together.

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McLean, Va.: Paul Compton: I find it interesting that you see users and advertisers as two distinct groups. I'm sure that many of our advertisers are also our viewers. I look at advertisers as "us" not "them."

I think you'll find this is a fairly uncommon opinion. Most of "us" work hard to block the popups/get rid of the ads "they" throw at us wherever possible. I'm less likely to buy a product if I've had to fight through their ads to see the content I'm looking for.

Paul Compton: I see what you're saying. I think you are getting into ad execution and the level of intrusiveness. I, as a Web viewer, like well executed advertising, and when it's a bad experience it can be frustrating.

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Paul Compton: I'm going to wrap up for today. Thanks for your comments. I know redesigns bring about strong opinions and I appreciate hearing from you.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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