The Irish Times has undergone a sea change in design. Where once readers had information, we now have pictures. Where we had journalism, we now have bling. On my desktop PC, the site is awful, a mish mash of conflicting styles, with different graphic elements sprinkled around the place like confetti. The menu bar thing appears to have been copied from Vodafone's awful site, and often doesn't load properly, leaving a smear of colours on my screen.
On mobile devices, the alleged focus of the design, its even worse. On my nexus 7, the site renders glacially slowly, finally offering me a screen which is mostly advertising, with the image link, but no content link, for the top story appearing. Scrolling down, I am presented with an awful mess of a page, more unrelated graphic elements, variable guttering, random typography, inconsistent appearance of links.
On my wife's HTC Wildfire, the site which "has been redesigned and restructured, with a particular focus on the growing demand for the best possible user experience on mobile devices" not only doesn't render, it actually manages to crash the device entirely.
Not that she's weeping bitter tears over this, as the experience of the site on my Nexus S is so lamentable. Pictures spill over text, graphic loading times go on forever, page renders are worse than the 7, and so on.
In observing the discourse regarding the changes on twitter yesterday, a pattern became apparent. Those praising the site, almost to a fault, were (from user agent strings) using iOS devices. They all praised the new site and how great it looked on their iPad or iPhone. The sneaking suspicion became a hardened cynical position when, in a pathetic effort to stem to tide of derision, David Cochrane and Hugh Linehan posted the above linked article, and displayed their mobile credentials with... an iPad and an iPhone!
It seems fairly clear to me that the worthy creatives of the Irish Times designed the site for creative people who all have iOS devices hardwired into their consciousnesses. When they say "mobile device" they actually mean "my iPad". I asked David Cochrane on twitter yesterday if they actually tested the site on anything other than iOS devices, he hasn't responded, nor I expect shall he.
I asked Hugh Linehan why they felt the need to make the site so un-newspaper like. He responded (in the same snide manner many of us remember from his handling of the Kate Fitzgerald affair) that if I wanted a newspaper, I should go buy one. This, remember, is the online editor of the paper.
When I've used a device on which the site works, it is still indescribably awful. Even short articles are split into two or more pages, the entire user experience is like something from a geocities site back in the day. The content, where it exists, is so hidden, so entombed in pointless bling that no comfort or information can be drawn from it.
I've deleted the Irish Times from my most visited sites page in Chrome, I think I'll be more content without it there. I'll also be dropping the two or three physical papers I get a week, its clear that if I want a newspaper I'll not find it in the Times.
EDIT: Just saw this on the twitter machine:
7.4MB transferred! On a site that's been supposedly designed for mobiles. The stupid, it hurts us.