A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 3: France 24
Sadly it seems that again this year it will be events off the road that dominate the headlines about the Tour De France. The blood doping allegations against Alexandre Vinokourov may have briefly made him the world's most famous Kazakhstani, even over Borat, but they are yet another blow to the reputation of cycling's most prestigous event.
Over the course of this week I have been reviewing online news sites for the usability, depth, and quality of their Tour De France coverage. So far I have looked at the official site, and the online coverage from the BBC.
Today I wanted to look at what might be seen as the most natural home for Tour De France information amongst the world's news services - that provided by state sponsored France 24.
The Tour De France has been the subject of one of their in-depth 'dossiers', with a picture promo on the France 24 homepage.
France 24 also displays a 'tag' cloud of "Most recommended" stories and topics in their right-hand column, with Le Tour featured prominently.
However, I was surprised that when I clicked on the link, instead of ending up at some sort of hub page for the 'tag', I was presented with the search results for the phrase "Tour De France".
I found this to be a very unsatisfactory user experience. Not only did the search results contain nothing in the way of an excerpt or synopsis of the stories being linked to, they included many duplicate results. Additionally there was no link through to the "Tour De France" homepage on the France 24 site, which surely ought to be the natural #1 result.
The Tour De France has been the subject of quite a bit of negative debate on the site, as part France 24's interactive features.
This year the Tour's doping issues have also featured on the France 24 equivalent of 'Have Your Say'.
France 24 also allows user comments on individual stories - called 'Reactions'. I'm generally positive about news outlets doing this, provided they are well moderated. France 24's seem to be, although I did have one usability gripe.
In order to leave a reaction, users have to click a link 'React' to open up the comments form. This is situated at the bottom of each story, in a kind of 'actions' toolbar, which also allows the user to save, print, or send a story via email.
If the user scrolls right to the bottom of the page, they get a message encouraging them to add their reaction to the story:
There are no reactions so far.
Be the first user to react to this article.
You will only have to select the button <<REACT>> and fill the indicated fields
It seems unhelpful not to have actually repeated the 'React' link within the <<REACT>> text. Instead the user has to look upwards on the page and locate the other instance of the word <<REACT>>.
Easier still, of course, would be to always include the comment form as a clear visual indicator to the user that it was possible to leave reactions to the story.
Overall I was surprised at how disappointed I was with the France 24 coverage. I thought that they would have had a significant amount of coverage of what is France's biggest annual sporting event. However, it didn't seem to be too in depth - and even before the Vinokourov story broke a lot of the coverage seemed to focus on the negative news stories surrounding the 2007 edition of the tour, rather than the event itself.
Next I will be looking at a site closer to home, with an overview of the coverage of Le Tour by British newspaper The Guardian.