Site critique: The Guardian – US spying in the Pacific

This piece by The Guardian explains that the US has been caught spying on their allies in New Zealand, and what the diplomatic implications are surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

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The top of the page here is way too busy for my liking. We have a navbar to choose your edition, a button for connecting to Facebook surrounded by wasted whitespace and a banner ad all before reaching their header. The headline of the piece is more than halfway down the page.

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Scrolling down a bit further to where the article actually begins, we get a shoddy stock photo that vaguely implies the threat of the digital age with an unrelated caption underneath. The lede of the story is a hypothetical question that isn’t clearly related to the headline of the story. If I were a reader casually clicking on the link out of anything other than extreme interest (or desperate need for an article to critique) I would probably click away after the first couple lines.

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After four paragraphs of accusations, we see their first proper use of multimedia. And it’s a tweet. Though I’m disappointed by this, they do use a pretty cool twitter widget. I dug through the HTML to find the associated code.

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It allows the tweet to be interacted with as a proper tweet and not just a screengrab – reply, retweet and favorite buttons all function, as well as links and hashtags. This is nice, but I wouldn’t call it compelling multimedia.

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Four more paragraphs explain the significance of Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, and then we get the ugliest pull quotes I have ever seen. These quotes are set in a grey font, with an indented left margin that costs even more vertical space, and they’re accented by the hideous red open quotes to the left. They don’t even close the quote later? What’s the point? And red isn’t even The Guardian’s color. I look at this and don’t understand the design intent at all.

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And then we reach the end of the piece. Here I think The Guardian does an excellent job of promoting continued engagement in the story and their publication. We see that you can get more information about Australian (or in this case, New Zealand) politics by subscribing to an email newsletter for new developments. Beneath are the obligatory share buttons, making it easy to encourage your social networks to read the article as well. Below that are links to more content, both from The Guardian and across the web, which I think is an interesting tactic considering they’re driving their readers to others’ content.

All in all, I was unimpressed by The Guardian’s use of multimedia. It’s very limited, and what they’ve used doesn’t deepen my understanding of the story or the issue. It’s a very text heavy – very opinionated – piece. I really hate the design of those pull quotes, but that’s just my opinion. The piece ends well, providing additional resources, but it doesn’t quite compensate for the busyness at the top of the page, which I found distracting. It’s an interesting story regarding privacy, spying and international politics, but for something that sounds so flashy on the surface, it sure is dull to look at.

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