Home Services Contact Info

Irish Times Website – irishtimes.com

Posted in: New Media,Usability by Richard Hearne on June 30, 2008
Internet Marketing Ireland

Well given that I have a bit of an unfair timezone advantage right now (GMT+6) I may be one of the first folk to gaze on the new Irish Times website:

Picture of IrishTimes.com - the new website for the Irish Times newspaper
IrishTimes.com – New Irish Times Website homepage

So what do I think?

So this is all subjective, and should be read in that light. The first thing I have to say is that this is a great improvement over old ireland.com site. It’s looks like a newspaper website. The homepage uses a 3-column layout, and for now I’m basking in the vista of an ad-free Irish Times (wont last more than an hour or two I’m sure, and even then I can easily block it all).

There are a few things that I really don’t get/like. The main navigation tab mechanism is far too subtle, and really does not tell me in a glance where I am (the main purpose of the tab function):

Picture of Irish Times Main Navigation Tabs
Irish Times Main Navigation Tabs

Personally the location indicator just isn’t obvious enough. If you drill down to a further level I think it becomes more visible:

Picture of Irish Times Main Navigation Tabs Tier 2
Irish Times Main Navigation Tabs Tier 2

And again, this time changing to a different Tier 1 page:

Picture of Irish Times Main Navigation Tier 1
Irish Times Main Navigation Tabs Tier 1 New

I think this could be easily improved by using a new background colour for both the current Tab and the sub-navigation. Convention is a very strong tool, and this is how using an active background colour might appear:

Picture of Irish Times Main Navigation Using Conventional Tabs
Mock Up of Irish Times Main Nav Using Active Background Colour

Would anyone agree that the active state background-colour contributes to an easier indication of current location? My poor mock-up may not be the best example however, and a strong high-contrast solour would do the job better I’m sure.

Related to this – I think the tabs used in the Popular Stories element are rather poorly designed:

Picture of Irish Times Popular Tab Function
Irish Times Popular Tab Function

“Site Index”?

Again, why break with convention? It’s a “Site Map” so why call it a “Site Index”? The feature itself is very slick, using Javascript to ease the hidden element into sight, and the layout and design of the site map is great:

Picture of Irish Times Site Index Function
Irish Times Site Map (Index) Function

People are used to looking for a ‘site map’. That’s the convention, and I can see no advantage at all in using terminology some people will not be familiar with.


When I was viewing the page without CSS (I often do this to see what the spider sees… sad eh?) I noticed large chunks of text that I couldn’t see on the rendered page. Always triggers a suspicion with me. But I found the text in quite a good Lightbox implementation:

Picture of Irish Times Lightbox Function
Irish Times Homepage Lightbox

I like that, and I’m sure it was controversial given that they could have increased their Page Impressions by simply putting each image on it’s own page.

Where’s the fold?

On my current set-up the Homepage fold is in a rather interesting position:

Picture of Irish Times Homepage With Fold
Irish Times Homepage with Fold Indication

Now that fold location will be different for most users, but the main problem it causes for me is that the fold occurs at a horizontal element which spans the full width of the page. That in turn removes a visual cue that there is more content further down the page. Had the fold occurred somewhere at the 3 column area, or if the page retained the 3 columns deeper down, I’d have an instant indication that there was more. A very small issue, but worth noting all the same. (For an interesting read about how important visual indicators are have a search for info on why Google included the copyright on their results pages).

Other Nice Features

The Carousel looks nice, but I have the feeling the CTA isn’t clear enough. Do I click on these, and if so where will it bring me? Maybe it’s just me (it all too often is BTW), and I’m sure many people will day it’s obvious. But it made me stop and think for a minute (always a bad sign IMO):

Picture of Irish Times Homepage Carousel
Irish Times Homepage Carousel Feature

Other thing worth noting is that some of the description below each item are wrapping down into the overflow which is hidden. Small bug, and I’m sure it will be fixed. Same thing happening in the Masthead feature, which I’m sure will be cleaned up:

Picture of Irish Times Masthead Feature
Irish Time Masthead Feature

I think the the homepage voting feature is very much adrift (did you even notice it?), and there’s something weird about the red play button on the 3 video thumbnails that I just cant figure out. Of course no blogs as we’d expect from the IT [Update: Damien found them, I’m obviously blind]. The weather feature is a great touch (hover over the weather in the masthead).

The Proof Is In The Eating…

You know… Content Is King. So possibly the most important pages are the actual story pages. Other than the boilerplate issues I mentioned above, you cant fault the story pages. Great layout, obtrusive ad elements pushed away from main content element, and nothing to break the flow of the readable content:

Picture of Irish Times Story Page Template
Irish Times Story Page

You Haven’t mentioned SEO Once?

Well there’s not too much to say just yet. But here’s a few things I noticed.

1. Homepage article URLs after rotating inside site?

I’m not sure what will happen, but I noticed that homepage articles have /homepage/ in the URL. It will be interesting to see what happens after they rotate off homepage – will the URL change? Need to watch that one, but for now I’m not sure.

2. Robots.txt contains a few unneeded lines in there that just duplicate earlier Disallows:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /dublin/
Disallow: /eurotimes/
Disallow: /survey/
Disallow: /promotion/
Disallow: /Storage/
Disallow: /ITImage/
Disallow: /photosales/

User-agent: Mediapartners-Google*
Disallow: /Storage/
Disallow: /ITImage/

User-agent: http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/crawler
Disallow: /photosales/

User-agent: Slurp
Disallow: /photosales/

User-agent: TurnitinBot
Disallow: /photosales/

User-agent: nutch
Disallow: /photosales/

User-agent:* should cover all the other User-agents listed below (if they are well-behaved), which makes those extra directives superfluous.

3. http://Ireland.com 301 redirected to www.irishtimes.com:


HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Age: 20
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2008 04:20:03 GMT
Content-Length: 230
Connection: Keep-Alive
Via: NS-CACHE-6.0: 101
Server: Apache
Location: http://www.irishtimes.com/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

Meanwhile www.ireland.com is giving a 403 Forbidden. Update: this was obviously something to do with migration as it’s since resolving:

Ireland.com Homepage Lightbox
Ireland.com Homepage Lightbox

Don’t you just hate it when you Lightbox doesn’t cover the full page height?

4. Damn Ugly redirects…
Try www.ireland.com:


<head><meta HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0;URL=index.jsp"></meta></head>

Which leads to:


HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Temporarily
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2008 07:04:11 GMT
Server: Apache-Coyote/1.1
X-Powered-By: Servlet 2.4; JBoss-4.2.2.GA (build: SVNTag=JBoss_4_2_2_GA date=200710221139)/Tomcat-5.5
Pragma: no-cache
Cache-Control: no-store
Expires: 0
Location: http://www.ireland.com/home/landing.ie
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 0
Via: 1.1 www.ireland.com
Keep-Alive: timeout=10, max=99
Connection: Keep-Alive

Which heads off to:


HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Temporarily
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2008 07:04:13 GMT
Server: Apache-Coyote/1.1
X-Powered-By: Servlet 2.4; JBoss-4.2.2.GA (build: SVNTag=JBoss_4_2_2_GA date=200710221139)/Tomcat-5.5
Pragma: no-cache
Cache-Control: no-store
Expires: 0
Location: http://www.ireland.com/home/landing.ie?pid=0
Content-Language: en-GB
Content-Length: 0
Via: 1.1 www.ireland.com
Keep-Alive: timeout=10, max=98
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-Type: text/illegal

Well it seems that the http://ireland.com 301 redirect to www.irishtimes.com has been fixed now, but given the canonical URL issue with http://ireland.com combined with those 3 redirects above I have a feeling ireland.com is going to cause some indigestion…

And How About Ireland.com?

Not much to say really – doesn’t flick any switches for me personally:

Picture of Iireland.com New Website
New Ireland.com Website

I’m sure they are going to build this out over time, but I had expected Ireland.com to become a destination portal. There’s lots of opportunities to monetise this baby – I wonder have they got an affiliate marketer in there yet?


Apologies for the long post (and God forbid you’re on dial-up for all those images…). Overall I think www.irishtimes.com is going to be a great success. I hope that they iteratively improve some of the boilerplate items that could be more usable. I have to commend the Irish Times for putting users ahead of monetisation – it’s clear to see that content has the highest priority, and adverts have not been positioned to disrupt the flow as is so often the case with newpapers these days. Compared to many other news sites I would have to say that I’m very, very impressed with the new Irish Times. Well done IT!

You should subscribe to the RSS Feed here for updates.
Or subscribe to Email Updates now:


  1. Good review (btw. that link to damien, actually ends at the end of the article !)

    I would like to see the Irish Times starting to use ALT tags on their images, like the one of Robert Mugabe at them moment. And I’m not sure about the moving text when you hover over the subsections on Crossword/Email/Competitions.

    Also the Most Read/Most emailed feature doesn’t currently work for me. But maybe that’s because you currently can’t email an article to a Friend.


    Comment by paul — June 30, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  2. Hi Paul

    Link fixed – thanks for that.

    I didn’t look at the ALTs actually, but one thing I did think of was the main image of Mugabe is not a live link. A lot of people click on images, and given the main image’s prominance, I’m sure this will be the case here also.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — June 30, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  3. Great take on the refresh, Richard.

    Comment by Alexia — June 30, 2008 @ 9:55 am

  4. Great post Richard, and I agree with the navigation issue you’ve highlighted.

    I’d also like to add to the navigation observations, when not using a mouse (i.e. a tab key), it’s impossible to see what link is focused on.

    This has accessibility implications and is a really easy CSS fix.

    #pri-nav-news a:hover { color:#C00000; }

    Could be improved with:
    #pri-nav-news a:hover, #pri-nav-news a:active, #pri-nav-news a:focus { color:#C00000; }


    Comment by Lar — June 30, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  5. Good review but The Irish Times has had blogs for over a year at this stage

    Comment by Seb Maguire — June 30, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  6. I’m not too impressed by the site. They have a good load of content and it’s a site I will use but there is a distinct lack of personality design wise. The font is very difficult to read and there is an awful lot of clutter on the homepage once you go below the fold. Five columns is a bit too much.

    Some of the text within the carousel is clipped too. Anything that wraps over three lines can’t be read (Safari).

    In the refine search drop-downs for date you can choose to search between dates in the future! That’s an interesting feature! I wonder can I get next week’s Lotto numbers…

    Comment by Cormac — June 30, 2008 @ 10:18 am

  7. @Alexia – thanks :grin:

    @Lar – hadn’t tried manually navigating, good point. I think you’ll find a lot more stuff on the accessibility side, and they’ll likely be badgering away today and in the near future to fix/improve these things.

    @Seb – my bad, and I updated the post to point to reflect this. Have to say though – I couldn’t see anything that pointed me at a blog when I visited earlier. Let’s just say there’s no prominent promos for the blogs.

    @Cormac – yeah it is a bit restrained. You look at the herald.ie and it has some nice use of colour and layout to pull the eye and demark different elements/content areas. But of course at the end of the day it’s about the content. It would be interesting to contrast all the top newspaper sites from a design/usability.functionality perspective actually.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — June 30, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  8. [...] goes deep on the new Irish Times site. Great [...]

    Pingback by Red Links 1/07/08 : Alexia Golez — July 1, 2008 @ 4:12 am

  9. Hi Richard,
    That example of the you are here indicators (images) don’t appear to be any different. So I couldn’t see your revised version. Other than that, it was a very indepth analysis.

    I find when it comes to SEO and large sites like this, they can often afford to be a bit more lax since they have so much content and often so many inbound links that they often rank well – even if they use unconventional (non-best practice) techniques / methods.

    I quite like the homepage layout myself. The columns are even and its a nice Grid layout. I’m hoping to learn more about Yahoo! CSS toolkit myself so i can achieve these kinds of layout using CSS and this is a good example of how neat those kind of layouts can look.

    I like the fact also that they have placed the Ads in the right hand corner and not in the middle of article content (how long it will stay like that I don’t know), if its one thing I hate about the Internet, its the way advertisers are trying to force advertising in our faces. Popups / roll over flash / Epileptic triggering flashing items / Punch the monkey animations, the list goes on.

    Unfortunately for me I work in the industry so can’t install ad blocker software – (not at work anyway) :(.

    Good article.

    Comment by Gavin Doolan — July 1, 2008 @ 8:38 am

  10. Hi Gavin

    The last image has a slightly off-white background in both the active tab and the subnav.

    There’s also one good reason why irishtimes.com shouldn’t be more lax – they have no history as the domain was just redirected. And I’ve noticed that Google is still returning ireland.com on searches for [irish times]. I think this is related to the page titles that were used.

    I too like the ad placement – more conscious of users than revenue IMO.

    Ever thought of using multiple profiles? You can have one non-ad profile for personal surfing, and another for work related stuff. All on the one install of Firefox :grin:

    Rgds, and thanks for dropping by

    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 1, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  11. Irishtimes.com – Personally, from a design perspective I think this is a mess – why oh why didnt they take more time at this and try to lay it out better…

    ireland.com – What can you say,,, to me this looks like a hackney’d rip of a mix roadrunner.com and bbc.co.uk and badly failing to meet anything like the quality of either site.

    Comment by Liam — July 1, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  12. I’d have to agree with Liam on this one.

    IrishTimes.com is quite poor from a design perspective.

    * The header is cramped and main navigation isn’t nearly strongly defined enough.

    * The right-hand column seems to have been poorly conceived as well although I can see they’re gearing up to have some ad space in there. Although it looks like they may be over-doing this – do the Irish Times really need this much intrusive advertising?

    * The animated panels under the top 3 columns are jerky and the text hard to read.

    * The grid in the columns under this are all over the place. The scrolling supplement marquee. It seems to indicate that there are 3 ‘pages’ although there are only really 2. I would recommend the developers have a shufty through the code and see what’s going wrong here.

    * Near the bottom, where it has the ‘crossword’, ‘email’, ‘competitions’, etc. – maybe it’s just FF on Mac but the way the text starts to animate when you rollover the columns is really, really terrible.

    Maybe I’m being over-critical but I would just expect a lot more from a site with this much financial backing behind it. A lot of the basic tenets of good, clean, functional design are missing here and I really don’t understand why it isn’t a lot better.

    Comment by Ken Stanley — July 1, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  13. @Liam – I think the ireland.com redesign likely took a back seat. I’d say that’s more to have something there for the moment.

    @Ken – Some interesting points there. Wonder if there aren’t some browser/os issues here? Agree on main nav. I imagine this is what was pushed out the door on release date, and we’ll see further refinements in the short term.

    I imagine the IT folk are getting some decent feedback by now and will take notice of everything being said.

    @both – thanks for dropping by.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 1, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  14. this “IT folk” – http://www.webfactory.ie/

    Comment by LT — July 1, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

  15. @Richard Do you know something the rest of us don’t or were you involved in the redesign in some way/are you going to be involved in an SEO project with them/will you be pitching one to them?

    No disrespect but saying “I’m sure they’re working hard on fixing the glaringly obvious design flaws” in light of deserved criticism is a little suspect! The Irish Times did very little to improve MyHome.ie so why would this site be any different? Well, that’s not entirely true. They got Webfactory to redesign MyHome.ie as well but, for a €50m website, it’s extremely poor effort (whether that be Webfactory’s fault or The Irish Time’s fault for not committing enough budget – who knows).

    Again, I’m not trying to rub anyone up the wrong way here but I really don’t think quality within the industry is going to improve if we’re busier trying to get into bed with the ‘big boys’ than we are showing them where they’re going wrong.

    Comment by Ken Stanley — July 1, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  16. Maybe I’m missing something, but dont IT have their own web team and digital side also? They might outsource the build, but that surely doesn’t mean they have no internal expertise overseeing this?

    @Ken – I have no relationship whatsoever with IT. Other than meeting Ronan Murphy at IIA Congress (as mentioned in my previous post) and receiving the PR (same post BTW), I have had no contact whatsoever with IT prior to this post. When I met Ronan with a group of 12 individuals he discussed the project, and it was quite obvious that it was a major undertaking.

    I have no intention of pitching anything to IT due to other client work. Not sure why you think I’m trying to ‘get into bed’ with them. The post was written to highlight what were, in my opinion, initial deficiencies with the new site.

    And given that I have had chances to work with large clients, I also understand that deadlines have to be met, and sometimes that means a release which isn’t 100%. Do you honestly think that the work on this stopped when they released it? C’mon Ken, you know the deal here – you’re not wet around the ears.

    I’ve written my opinion above, and I stick with the view that compared to where they were (ireland.com) and what I’m looking at today (irishtimes.com) they’ve done quite a good job. Feel free to write your opinions here or elsewhere if you disagree with my opinion, but please do both you and me a favour – leave your tinhat at the door before jumping to any more conclusions about my intentions.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 2, 2008 @ 4:27 am

  17. @Richard – fine, you say that there’s no agenda there and I’ll take you at your word. Anyway even if there was, so what? All I was saying was that it seems odd that there are criticisms to be made and you’re plastering over them for absolutely no reason whatsoever. There are obvious issues with the design of the site. Let’s leave it at that and not make any wild predictions as to the honorable intentions of the IT to fix them. As we both know, this is rarely the norm when companies think they’ve already ‘got it right’. Webfactory are already describing the site as ‘the fruit of over 8 month’s analysis and design concepts. It uses the latest in proven design technologies to ensure irishtimes.com users enjoy the best interaction experience possible… an enhanced user experience…” – this is hardly the case. Just short of getting bitchy, which isn’t my intention, the site is sorely lacking. Although I hope you’re right and that they do refine it.

    Comment by Ken Stanley — July 2, 2008 @ 6:35 am

  18. For Ken and Liam, can you please provide some examples of quality sites in this Industry please that you either have been involved in, just trying to understand your comments in comparison to this market

    Comment by Henk — July 2, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  19. @Henk Why sites that we have been involved in? We’re not here to defend ourselves, defend our work or put our clients’ sites up for criticism. We’re talking about a different website. No need to be po-faced. Besides, I’m hardly posting anonymously. Anyway, back to the point…

    Comment by Ken Stanley — July 2, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  20. There are some comments on the new site in “Letters to the editor” in today’s Irish Times

    Comment by Lar — July 2, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  21. There are some further comments on Conor’s Pricewatch blog

    Anyone else finding navigating around their blogs near impossible? You can’t go from a blog post back to the blog homepage at all. Bizarre.

    Comment by Cormac — July 2, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

  22. I think the new website looks great. Its easier to navigate and how can you complain when its now free. I think it really says somthing about the level of customer service. We wanted it free and now it is free! I think the irishtimes.com is a big step forward and like every new or redeveloped site people need to give it a chance and let it work out its bugs.

    Comment by Amanda — July 3, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    It’s great to see that they are getting out there like there competitors and going free! I am a proud supporter of the paper and read it Monday through Saturday. I think all those complaining better think again because they have made these changes so you can have access to the Irish times online for FREE!! Cant you ever be happy!!

    Comment by Bob Marley — July 3, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  24. Hi Amanda

    Thanks for commenting.

    I just want to make a general point to anyone who wants to comment anonymously – very often I can track you back, and find a number of footprints via your IP. The internet is truly a wonderful thing, especially for tracing traffic.

    I’m delighted people want to comment on my wee blog, but if they do have a vested interest it would be nice for them to state so.

    Please note: this is a general comment and should not be construed to contain anything ‘between the lines’.

    Best rgds

    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 3, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  25. Woah – Bob back from the dead. And he’s an Irish Times reader.

    How very convenient…

    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 3, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  26. @Amanda and @Bob Marley – The criticisms being made are being made largely by Web designers and developers who feel that the design of the site isn’t up to scratch. It has nothing to do with the fact that the IT have decided to make their site content free. I actually commend them for this. Their paid subscription model was always doomed to eventual failure anyway. FWIW, I read the IT most days; this isn’t an attack on them, rather on the quality of their new site.

    Comment by Ken Stanley — July 3, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  27. @Ken – I have a suspicion they wont see your follow-up via email, but someone may well see it by visiting in person.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 3, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  28. [...] on from my previous post about the new Irish Times website, I’ve been watching how Google gets on with the migration from ireland.com to [...]

    Pingback by Irish Times Where Art Thou? | Search Engine Optimisation & Online Marketing Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — July 15, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  29. Very good write up on the ‘new’ site.

    I found your post by searching after any hints about a mobile version of the irishtimes.com website. So far, I’ve had no luck in finding a proper mobile version which IMHO is quite odd.

    How can a newspaper, the size of irishtimes.com, redesign and launch their online version in the year 2008 without a mobile version?

    Or am I just too blind to see it?

    Comment by Jonas — September 20, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  30. Hi Jonas

    In fairness, there are some fairly immense obstacles to getting a news site onto mobile. While there are some off-the-shelf solutions, generally site owners often need to go bespoke, and I’m pretty sure this is costly. Perhaps IT have a mobile strategy which is still in development (I must try to find out TBH).

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting here.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — September 21, 2009 @ 4:11 am

Comments Feed TrackBack

Leave a comment