Useless URLs at two papers
In some random Web browsing today, I came across completely amateurish coding decisions at the sites of two newspapers with quite respectable print editions.
The Austin American-Statesman recycles URLs. Take, for example, http://www.austin360.com/statesman/editions/monday/news_1.html. “news_1.html,” in a folder called “monday”? Next Monday, the next “news_1.html” will overwrite this week’s version. I understand (even if I do not agree with) business decisions to remove articles from a site after a certain number of days. In that case, readers’ bookmarks will break and links from external sites will break — and visitors will get a “not found” error page. On statesman.com, bookmarked or linked URLs do indeed break after seven days, but instead of an error message the visitor will receive a different article. There is simply no valid technical reason to cause this confusion for readers.
The Orange County Register uses frames. Hello? Frames? This is the year 2002. I think people have known how annoying it is to have URLs hidden in the browser’s location bar since about, hmmm, 1996. Yes, browsers do let you bookmark pages in frames, link to them and share the URLs with friends, but some Web users do not know how to do those things. And the Register is destroying the usability of their URLs for the sole purpose of displaying a banner ad at the bottom of the page? Please. There are modern ways of doing that which do not require frames. At the very least, the Register could program some content management system to automatically spit out a separate FRAMESET for each article, keeping their framed design but providing bookmarkable URLs. The Register’s current design manages to not only annoy all users, but let sophisticated users bookmark stories and return to them without viewing the main ad (it’s in the bottom frame). This sure is a profitable and user-friendly set of HTML code if I ever saw one.