In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a slight bias towards the Star as the Sun is widely thought of by many (including me) as one small notch above tabloid. This is because, much like the New York Post, they often opt for the sensational story over the important one. The daily inclusion of the Sunshine Girl, located on the bottom left of their site, also hurts their credibility. As for the Star, I have been a loyal reader for years, notably their coverage of the Toronto Raptors, brought to you by the likes of Doug Smith and Dave Feschuk.
After having perused both sites, the Star is much easier on the eyes. It looks far more professional than the Sun and has more of a “personality,” if you catch my drift. The Sun looks like any old site. It is boring. In fact, rather than appearing like the site for a major daily newspaper, it feels more like that of a small community in Saskatchewan (no offence to Saskatchewan of course). The Star’s site is recognizable and memorable, with an understated white and blue theme throughout, ala Facebook. Quite frankly, the Sun’s site looks downright cheap.
OK. Let’s talk specifics. On the Sun’s site, the ads are too high up on the page, drawing the eye away from the news stories. I am not and have never been a fan of the scrolling tabs on news websites. I think a golden rule for web designers should be that nothing should change unless you click on it. It is infuriating when you are trying to digest headlines and all of a sudden, you’re reading something else. There is a pause button but still.
Stories from both papers don’t tend to be too long so you never have the problem of a story scrolling on forever. But I will say two things about the format of the stories. First, the default font size on the Sun site is too small. In fact, the same can be said for the headlines and abstracts on the homepage, making the entire site feel cluttered. In terms of spacing and font size, the Star has this just right. Second, I like my article text to start at the top left corner. Normal, right? Like reading a book. The Star always does this, with the text starting on the top left with the picture on the top right. The Sun does the opposite and it hurts my eyes. Check out these examples. The Sun is on the top with the Star on the bottom.
As most news websites do, both of these examples have boxes with the most popular stories of the day as well as a daily poll question. These are staples as far as I’m concerned. As far as content goes, it comes down to personal preference. The Sun tends to be a little more conservative than the Star but that’s not something that I can really fault them on. In terms of the quality of the writing, I’d give the Star the slight nod. But both papers have loyal readerships so I don’t see either of them going anywhere anytime soon.
Oh, and pictures. The Star’s site has more pictures than the Sun’s. Pictures give the viewers’ eyes a break. A welcome distraction. I mean really, who is interested by a wall of text? When you get lower down on either site, the different sections of the newspapers are laid out. The difference is that the Star continues to have pictures while the Sun does not.
To summarize, the Sun site looks dull and cheap. The Star site looks professional. I think that the Sun site could be improved if they spaced it out more, added more pictures, and upped the font size. It takes longer to scroll the entire Star site than the Sun site, and I think that’s a good thing. And as I mentioned before, it needs more of a “personality.” Another nifty thing about the Star site is their choice of views. It is an aesthetic thing more than a functional one, but cool nonetheless.
My grades (categories provided by teacher)
Ease of use: 20/20
Content richness: 18/20
Content style: 18/20
Ease of use: 16/20
Content richness: 15/20
Content style: 17/20