New Sabah Times was recommended to me by my friend, Joneh, during my recent call for alternative online Malaysian news sources. I’ve been actively using New Sabah Times for about a week now and have been generally pleased with my browsing experience there. This post is to share my opinions on the New Sabah Times web site.
The layout of the New Sabah Times web site is a typical fixed width, three-columned layout with the main content in the middle. The left-most column holds the navigation bar while the right column holds the contact details (email and mailing address) for the paper. The site’s header (or masthead) is a little bland for my tastes, containing three distinct pictures:
- The New Sabah Times logo, which also links to the index page
- A picture of two copies of the newspaper, with an “Advertise on our site” text overlaying them
- A picture of someone browsing the New Sabah Times web site on her notebook
Personally, I feel that the second picture in the masthead could cause confusion. It looks more like a linking image for the advertising department, but serves no such function. Overall, the masthead gives an amateurish feel to the New Sabah Times web site. My advice is, keep the header simple and with minimal colours. The header shouldn’t distract the reader from the main content. Check out the headers of these famous news web sites for excellent examples:
The next thing that grabbed my attention, but for the wrong reason; was the horizontal scrolling news ticker. Tickers are irritating and passe. In my opinion, it’s better for the New Sabah Times web site to have a “Most Read Today” section or even link to a few random news posts for the day. It makes more sense and have less chance of making readers have epileptic seizures
I also find the third column redundant, the contact info could have been easily been put into the first column, either under of over the navigation menu. It really doesn’t take much space to warrant dedicating a whole column just for that information. I also feel that the New Sabah Times web master should take out the link to Blue Hyppo e-browse as they are serving a dead link using the New Sabah Times logo.
I’d really recommend going for a wider layout as the current width feels too cramped. Better still, go for a fluid width template and giving the power to the readers on how they want to read the web site. At the very least, remove the last column and let the main content column take up the freed space, thus making articles more readable.
I like the navigation menu and feel that it has been organised rather well. The only gripe I have about the menu is the Latest News link. It’s the exact same page as the main index but having a different URL. I’d remove the link because:
- It’s redundant
- It doesn’t contribute to the reading experience
- It’ll get New Sabah Times punished by search engines for fielding duplicate content
The New Sabah Times Archives page seems to have an identity crisis; is it really an archives page, or is it a search interface? Honestly, I think it fails on both counts but succeeds in making the visitor confused when landing on the page.
The search form layout is the weirdest I’ve seen in any news web site. The dates selection set is Year-Month-Day, instead of the familiar Day-Month-Year format Malaysians are accustomed to. Being a programmer, I can tell that this is a sign of lazy interface programming. Furthermore, the year dropdown fields are from 2002 to 2012. Can the New Sabah Times report news from the future?!
Additionally, by not having a text input field to query for news containing a specific word of phrase makes the search page pretty much useless for an average reader. People will search for a news item. Nobody cares or remembers the date on which the news was published!
Although the interface and overall look and feel of the New Sabah Times web site leaves much to be desired, I find the news items themselves to be concise and delivered in easy to read paragraph chunks. I’ve yet to find any glaring spelling or grammar errors for the past week; a sign of quality editing and proofreading.
Another thing that makes me drawn to reading New Sabah Times is that the content has a uniquely Sabahan insight to it. Some of the news items are interesting enough to make me wonder why it wasn’t more widely covered in the more mainstream papers from the Peninsula.
The inclusion of Malay and Kadazan Dusun news items can either be seen as “rojak” (a Malay term for mixed-up; resembling a local dish of the same name) or unique. I’m one of those who see it as the latter. Having a multi-lingual news site is not an easy thing to pull off. However, New Sabah Times seems to be managing rather well.
To conclude, I feel that business-wise, New Sabah Times is definitely a regional player with a solid publishing heritage. They seem to have some hiccups implementing an online presence but with some research and observing how the global big boys are doing it, the New Sabah Times web site should be able to pick up a useful thing or two. I’d definitely use it as a source for local news.