We’ve known each other a long time. We started spending a lot of time together in college. You’ve gone through several redesigns in that time. Heck, I even blogged about some of them. But lately, I’m not feeling it.
Here’s the thing. Your article layout sucks. Take a look at what I’m talking about:
See the smallest column, over there on the left? That’s the text of the article. The second column is a sidebar. The third column is a statbox. The fourth column, which is empty, runs the length of the page but is only occupied near the top, with an advertisement.
Note that on several lines, only two words fit in the first column, and on one line, only a single word fits. And this is just one screen’s worth of one article. It’s so painful that it makes the article unreadable.
Here’s my suggestion: Change the article layout so that it has two columns of equal width. The first column contains the body of the article, and is untouchable. Nothing may encroach upon it. The second column can contain anything else — advertisements, sidebars, statboxes, whatever.
A second option might be to take inspiration from the iPhone version of ESPN.com. Let’s take a look:
We’ve got an ad, the section header, the score header, then hey — what’s this? It’s a pseudo-tabular nav header. We could apply this to the main site! Solve the layout problem by hiding elements (additional analysis, links, stats) until the reader wants to see them. If we were to scroll down on the iPhone site, we’d see that for the entire length of the article, it occupies the full width of the browser window. No element encroaches upon the article’s space. In this respect, the article is easier to read on my phone than it is on my computer. Not only that, but the layout of the article on my computer — at its narrowest point — is not as wide as the layout of the article on my iPhone. That’s measured in characters or inches, take your pick.
So, ESPN.com, I still really like you, but you’ve got to work on this stuff. Or what? Or else, that’s what.