More on AlJazeera.Net in English online
Over the last few weeks I've been looking at the AlJazeera.Net English site. I haven't written about it up until this week partly to allow them time to do a bit of snagging on the site post-launch, and partly because I have still found it to be quite unresponsive during peak times.
Whilst there are some things about the site that I like, I find there are still quite a few rough edges to it. The registration process, for example, has flaws.
Due to patchy access it took me a while to complete my registration. Regardless of that, I found problems with my double opt-in email. This contained the standard HTML email message "If the link above does not work for any reason, please copy the following link and paste it in your browser address bar".
A fine precaution to take of course when sending formatted email, except that the link didn't fail because I was using AOL, some other obscure mail/web combo, or because I was offline. It failed because the link was malformed in the HTML source of the email.
This is pretty basic end-to-end testing stuff to have missed when launching the service.
The design of the registration forms and confirmation follows the convention of the site to have prominent time-stamps on every page. I quite understand why you would want to timestamp the news stories themselves, but I am not sure why I need to see so vividly that the template for the registration page was first coded on March 26th
Obviously search is a subject close to the heart of this blog, so I was very interested to see how the new AlJazeera.Net site handled that - and I was again pretty disappointed. There is no search box in the global navigation for the site, and none of the content pages, including the homepage, features a search box. Of the competitors beginning to fight it out in this global news space, this leaves AlJazeera.Net as the only online news service out of the BBC, CNN, and the new France24 not to have search on their homepage.
To search the site the user has to find the text link "Search" in the lower regions of the left-hand navigation in a section along with links to an 'About us' page and the Arabic version of the site. Maybe they will make the search more prominent once there is more of an Enlgish language archive of material available.
Once the user has clicked that link, the search page they reach is sparse, with no additional search options that could justify search requiring a unique landing page, rather than being a box embedded throughout the site.
Another curious feature of the search page is that regardless of whether the user is viewing the Flash or HTML version of the site, the page is not coded so that hitting the enter button triggers the search. This seems a strange oversight when the only purpose of the page in question ought to be to get a user to the search results as quickly as possible. Like the black'n'white images of the Flash version of the homepage, this just seems a curious interaction choice to make.