A Comparison of The Seattle Times, New York Times and BBC News sites

Group: Ian and Jake

Genre: News Media

The Seattle Times


The New York Times


BBC News


Similarities in Design

  • All three news sites have a top search bar (although two are on the right side, and NY Times is on the left)
  • All three have white backgrounds and black logos.
  • Both the Seattle Times and the New York Times have the same font.
  • They all use a basic three-column layout to organize content
  • All sites included a combination of blue and black text.


Differences in Design

  • BBC News and the Seattle Times have top navigation bars while The New York Times has a left navigation bar including multimedia and tools.
  • BBC initially categorizes news in a general sense with a link to “News” in the top nav bar as well as a prominent “News” link below the Top Story.  Clicking on News in either case leads to a double top navigation bar with links to various types of news stories and by location.
  • For Seattle Times, the News button leads to a drop down menu where users differentiate between “local news” and “Nation & World.”
  • For NY Times, the left navigation bar has the option of global “world”, national  ”U.S.” and regional “New York” news articles.
  • The Seattle Times has a secondary drop down menu in the top navigation bar, while BBC and the NY Times do not.
  • Both NY Times and Seattle Times have login and subscriber links in the top right corner. BBC is not a subscriber based news website so it’s not necessary.
  • The Seattle Times and NY Times include Facebook and Twitter as their primary social media links. Links on both sites are in small fonts at the top right corner of the home page.  The BBC does not have social media links on its front page. You cannot share the home page, but you can share specific secondary news articles.
  • The types styles used by the NYT and Seattle Times is a serif style, probably Times Roman. The BBC uses a sans-serif style type.

Effectiveness of Visual Design (Home Pages)

BBC News

Less cluttered navigation is simple with additional “quick links.” Easy to find information by topic. Sitemap is very accommodating to new visitors. BBC header expands full screen, whereas Seattle Times and NY Times do not. The type style is more open and cleaner.  BBC uses gray background boxes which add to the visual appeal. The site has minimal bright colored buttons which creates a sense of authority and seriousness.

Seattle Times

Drop down menus allow for more specific news searches. More effective thumbnail images grab your attention (NY Times thumbnails are too small). Section headings employ different type styles which help differentiate from article text. While bright red and orange link buttons in ads may be effective, they diminish the sense of authority, are distracting, and cheapen the site.

New York Times

The amount of actual text is visually overwhelming. The extensive ads create confusion. The site has too many small, low resolution thumbnails which create clutter. The section headings such as Technology and Arts are the same size as the highlighted article text on the front page. The subscribe, login and FB Twitter links are well positioned in the top right corner and are well proportioned – not too big, not too small.


Nigel is a graduate student studying law at the University of Washington.  His area of focus is intellectual property and copyright law. He is a first year international student from London, England. He is not a subscriber to any newspapers or online subscriptions. Typically, he gets his news from Google News when checking his emails.

For a class assignment, Nigel is asked to write a brief about a current high-tech patent case. He remembers hearing something about a US trial involving Microsoft and Motorola on an NPR radio program, but can’t recall the specifics. He decides to use that case for his essay and begins his background research with news media outlets since the news is current.

Audience Segment and Measures of Success

Nigel is representative of educated students who typically get their news from aggregators such as Google and follow their interests to secondary sources. In this case, however, he starts with the local news authority, the Seattle Times. Success for Nigel would be getting current information about the case via a local news reporter who writes about legal issues and who may also provide links to other sources.


Nigle chooses three news media websites:  The Seattle Times (since the trial is in Seattle), The New York Times (regarded as one of the most credible Newspapers  in the US), and BBC News (to provide an international perspective). Nigel has never been on the Seattle or New York Times websites, but he has been to the BBC news site before.  As a full-time graduate student working 20 hrs per week in a part-time internship, Nigel is hard-pressed for time.

Seattle Times

Nigel goes directly to the SeattleTimes.com website. He first does a quick scan of the images and headlines that concern either Microsoft or Motorola. He scrolls down the page to see if there is a “technology” section. There is a “Business & Technology” section but none of the five headlines pertain to the case. He goes back to the navigation bar and in the drop down menu he finds a link specifically titled “Microsoft.” He scrolls down the page and under “Recent Stories” he selects the article “Microsoft, Motorola patent trial starts.” Nigel realizes the article was written by a Tech reporter and does not provide much background or legal information, so he decides to find another source. He tries the New York Times.

New York Times

Because the homepage of nytimes.com is so overwhelming with text and headlines, Nigel feels more comfortable using the search bar. He types in “Microsoft vs Motorola.”

The first article in the search results is titled “Microsoft files complaint against Motorola in Europe.” Unbeknownst to Nigel, the New York Times search result is organized by relevance, not most recent. He doesn’t notice that the article was published in February 2012 and still clicks on the article. The first sentence of the article explains that Microsoft’s complaint was filed “Wednesday” with the European Union. Realizing that this article is irrelevant because the trial is in process, he exits the site out of frustration.

BBC News

Because the NY Times article mentioned the European Union and he’s familiar with the BBC News as a British resident, he elects to go to bbc.com. He immediately goes to the search bar where he can quickly bypass much of the international stories. It takes him 6 seconds to find the search bar which irritates him. Again, he searches “Microsoft vs Motorola.” The first article is titled “Judge Dismisses Apple vs Motorola Case” dated June 25th.

He ignores this one and notices another article titled “Microsoft, Motorola patent trial Starts [the Seattle Times]” dated November 14th.  He clicks on that expecting a new perspective.

The link takes Nigel back to the first article he read on seattletimes.com on a completely different third party website – mspnews.com.  He gives up and emails his professor for advice.  The professor suggests he simply “Google” it via search and provides several recommendations for law websites which specialize in following cases.

Dos and Don’ts

Seattle Times


  • Excellent  use of different type styles for navigation
  • Thumbnail size and quantity is appropriate for the front page
  • Dropdown menu does a great job of narrowing down news categories and minimizing clutter
  • Easy to find search bar
  • Large clean site map box at bottom

Does not

  • Doesn’t have a dynamic homepage. Prominent first image is static, does not utilize a slideshow.
  • Doesn’t differentiate domestic and international news in the drop down menu
  • The log in link should be larger to accommodate paid subscribers
  • There are no “last update” timestamps

New York Times


  • Does the best job of distinguishing between global, domestic, and regional news articles in the navigation bar. As a renowned international news service, the Times’ subscribers include national and international readers in addition to local New Yorkers. The navigation does a good job of accommodating these different audiences.
  • Does include a banner ad below their logo that effectively promotes their digital subscription

Does not

  • Navigation and search bars are on the left sidebar. Since most media websites have the search bar in the top right corner and a navigation menu across the header, this may make navigation awkward for new visitors.
  • Doesn’t have a sitemap box at the bottom of the homepage.
  • The default setting of the search results is sorted by relevance, not the most recent. Should change this to most recent or at least make these options clearer.
  • Make section headings a different type style from the article body to create contrast and make navigation easier
  • Small thumbnail images add to clutter (24 thumbnail images on the homepage) Increase size and reduce quantity.
  • Reduce quantity of small home page ads to minimize clutter. Perhaps include smaller number of larger ads at higher cost instead.
  • Needs to incorporate drop-down menus to reduce clutter.

BBC News


  • Great use of high-quality images with a slideshow
  • Does provide a large, clear sitemap to all news topics
  • Minimal advertising images do not compete with news  images
  • “BBC in your language” is very useful and easy to find for international readers
  • Choice of type style, color and font result in a clean, clear page

Does not

  • Search bar is too small
  • Doesn’t  integrate social media links on the homepage
  • Should employ drop-down menus to enhance navigation
  • BBC doesn’t have consistency with advertisements and browsers. While a banner ad showed up for Jake using Internet Explorer, no banner ad appeared for Ian while using Safari. This could be intentional but is unlikely and should be questioned.

Banner ad appears in Internet Explorer browser:

No banner ad with Safari:

Overall, the primary differences in design are a direct result of the different local, national or international audiences. In addition, the corporate structure also dictates design. The BBC is non-profit,  supported by the British government, and does not rely on advertising. Consequently, it can afford a cleaner look free of ads, and does not need to promote it’s home page via social networks.

8 responses to “A Comparison of The Seattle Times, New York Times and BBC News sites”

  1. Kathy E. Gill says :

    Realistic scenario and persona. Suggestion – rather that setting out as separate paragraphs, work at synthesizing Persona/Audience Segment and Measures of Success/Scenario. Good catch about UI changing across browsers.

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