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Why I hate the CNN redesign, quantified

Yesterday I ranted on Twitter about CNN’s redesign:

This led to an exchange with a CNN staffer, and a couple people saying “me too!” But it felt it a bit unfair to criticize without specific data. So this morning, I gathered the data, and can now quantify my distaste for the new design.

I compared the current CNN homepage to the latest available on the Internet Archive, calculating how the space was used for each version of the site. The results were eye opening in many ways.


tl;dr summary: The new CNN design displays half as many clickable stories in the same space, with an image that takes 20% of the available screen, and sucks down over 20% of my CPU just to display its home page. Read on for the gory details.

Note: This follow-up entry details my post-CNN news sources and reading methods.


Please leave feedback for CNN if you share my frustrations.
Thanks to Raymond for posting this address in the comments.

I opened a window that was 1,148 x 1,186 pixels in size, and loaded both the new and old CNN sites in tabs that window (with an ad blocker running, so I saw only content). I then grabbed screenshots, cropped to the visible page area, and started marking sections using color overlays in Acorn. I was most interested in what appears “above the fold,” that is, that can be seen without scrolling in either direction.

I split each version of the site into four different area definitions: Content, Images, Navigation, and Admin. (The split between the last two is somewhat arbitrary, but I used the same methodology on both versions of the site.)

Here’s how the two sites looked, mapped out into those area definitions (click either page for a much larger version).

Old Site New Site

Once the page was mapped out, I created a simple spreadsheet that calculated the area of each type of content, based on its pixel dimensions. Here’s how the two versions of the site compare:

OLD NEW CHANGE
Content areas 21% 22% +5%
Image areas 13% 28% +115%
Navigation areas 19% 10% -47%
Admin areas 9% 7% -22%
White space areas 38% 33% -13%

At first glance, this doesn’t look so bad—the content areas’ size is actually a bit larger than before, while the image areas’ growth has come from reductions in the navigation, admin, and white space areas. If that were the full story, I’d be fine—I still think it’s too much big imagery, but the content areas are actually larger than before.

Look beyond the summary, though, and things are really ugly:

OLD NEW CHANGE
Visible clickable stories 41 19 -54%
Largest image 7% 20% +186%
Average CPU usage 3% 20% +567%
Page length, pixels 3,770 10,452 +177%

The content areas—despite being larger than before—display less than half the previous number of stories. If you compare the screenshots above, you can see the cause: huge text with large gaps between story headlines. And then there’s that image, pushing everything down the page.

About that image…it’s now massive, sucking up a full 20% of the visible space on the page. 20% of 1.36 million pixels—that’s insane!

Why do we need to see such a massive image? “But an image is worth 1,000 words!” you say? Not when said image replaces words that used to lead to many stories; now the one massive image leads to but one story.

The other eye opener was the CPU usage; cycling amongst four of those large images (and providing a scrolling news ticker?) is apparently a hard thing to do. While the old site barely moved the CPU usage meter, the new site is consistently over 20% on my 2014 Core i7 Retina iMac—and that’s while it’s just sitting there; I’m not interacting with it in any way. If I were on a laptop, this kind of CPU usage would drive me crazy. 20% of my CPU to view a news page?

Finally, as you can see, the new page is nearly three times as long as the old page. That means lots of scrolling if you want to get to the bottom of the page (where, as it turns out, you can see yet more massive imagery). Ugh.

To summarize, the new CNN site (at least, the “use without scrolling” portion of the site) contains half the data as before, with an image that takes up nearly three times as much of the page. The site now takes 20% of the CPU on a brand-new Core i7 iMac just to display and sit, and it’s incredibly long, making it tedious to scroll through.

This is not what I would call a successful redesign. Pretty? Sure. Usable? No.

460 Comments

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  1. There is way too much dynamic content on today’s CNN.COM. All those moving pixals on the page require processing, and I am not just talking about the client. Dynamic content is built on the fly, can be very demanding on the server end as well, and I suspect CNN did not have adequate hardware in place to support the rollout of the new format.

  2. I don’t get why there are all these complaints, but nothing is changing? Don’t they care that their customers/readers are moving to other new sites? So frustrating!

    1. They have lost me except occasionally on desktop. They were top of my news sites, accessed continuously through the day. Not any more.

  3. This review was even quantitatively kinder to CNN because its ads were blocked in comparing old and new. In reality those ad videos on the new webpage start themselves without even being clicked on and suck up more CPU resources. And SUCKS is the operative word for a website that makes my Acer AMD Quad PC stutter and jutter on CNN.com and not other news websites. I’ll be darned if I am going to let CNN make my PC obsolete.
    Rather, these changes have made CNN itself obsolete as far as I’m concerned.

  4. I think these sites are missing the point of how to design a web site. Its not about in your face graphics that take up a lot of space. But it does appear that is exactly what many are going for. Given many people access these sites on smaller screens, I wonder why they think its a good ideal to take up so much room for a picture? In the end, I think many news stories at the bottom of a page now get ignored. My own experience I stopped using sites like USA today, Bloomberg, and now CNN because they all cater to a very confusing and overly graphical experience with little substance unless you go digging for it. Maybe, that’s how people get their news these days. In dribbles of 2 minute videos and a few headlines.
    Guess you do not need real journalists to do that kind of stuff?

  5. CNN’s website redesign is one of the most disastrous I’ve ever seen. Responsiveness is terrible on a full PC with lots of processing power, on a mobile phone their mobile site is just awful. I’ve been amazed that they let this go on for so long without making any changes. The folks are clueless.

    1. i’ve stopped even checking to see if they fixed it. i don’t see them fixing it because someone will lose their job higher job if they have to say the screwed the pooch on it. also, they might have more sight views than before bc there are folks who want pretty pix with captions instead of reading articles… and the former leads to much more clicking around per unit of time.

    2. Cnn news is hardly updated too! Day after day I see same news…. Try flip board the news there is updated every 30 minutes…. Seems like 1 people alone is managing the site at cnn…I used to go for the. Comments section now never log on…because it’s lacking news…

  6. Truly sucks. I just accidentally hit the screen during a Home Depot commercial and it took me to the site with no option to return (ipad). Then I hit a feedback button to tell them they suck and it went to a blank screen. Even hitting home button did nothing.

    1. I use to spend much of my day on cnn.com. No more. Completely useless with an iPad. Touch an article and wait, and wait, wait a little more, still more. I can almost scroll up and down now but not quite yet. Nope, not yet. Pretty soon. Yeah! Finally I can now scroll down to read the article.

      Then . . .

      “This webpage was reloaded due to a problem with the page.”

      ARGH! Now I have to start all over!!!

      1. That’s exactly what is happening to me! In fact the reason I found this article is that I googled “why is it so hard to read the news on my IPad?” It’s beyond frustrating to try to read a single article.

  7. On phone and tablet it’s almost impossible to click on story you want, loading is so jerky and takes so long!! Ridiculous!! Impossible to watch video reporting, thing won’t load either. This is a total disaster. Someone made money out of this incompetence?

  8. Horrible, horrible…hate the CNN website. So little news and a WAY, WAY too large main photo. Please change this CNN. Well, really, I don’t care…after the story about US man killing an endangered rhino and other ‘news’ I think I’m leaving for good.

  9. I didn’t think they could make their site any worse that they already have, but they did. What’s with CNN making their headlines in GIGANTIC font like somehow that would get their point of view across better? How tacky and unprofessional. They’ve become race baiters instead of simply reporting news in an unbiased manner. No wonder there are riots!

  10. looking at “Muslim chaplain claims discrimination on United flight” for 2 days! Really? Since when is being treated rudely on a plane a headline? This is sensational and stupid now news. all the more irritating with the ads in the most bothersome locations. you can’t get around stories that you don’t want to read, you can’t find stories that you do want to read. I have tried and tried to like this, or adjust to it, for months. it is horrible. format changed, but also content is junk.

  11. I have been unhappy with the cnn website since the redesign as well, but I felt like it was just me. When I just googled “cnn website is a memory hog” I found this article. However, the second result listed was to a CNN article on how to improve computer speed, which appeared to have a by-line dated 1999! what’s going on here?

  12. The CNN site is horrible. I also have alerts on my computer now which fly out all the time, but I don’t have a CNN window anywhere open on my computer. I don’t remember allowing them to put an “app” on my computer, or give access to my computer or anything like that.
    I’ve switched to Reuters.

  13. ok – i thought it was something wrong with my computer. i hate the new layout too. now i know why the site freezes constantly. too bad, cnn has been my goto new site for years. i’m going to get my news elsewhere. i’ll probably come back now and then to see if anything has changed.

  14. I have deleted the iPhone CNN app and will not use it anymore on my laptop. Freezing the screen to force me to look at ads is a losing proposition. There are other news sites.

  15. To all…get a life. Don’t like it = don’t watch it. Americans as a society are a mess. Devote half as much time as you have here to complain about a website to something more meaningful. For F sake.

    1. One might say the same about taking the time to make a comment complaining about people complaining about something they don’t like. (Many reply in the hopes that somewhere somehow, someone at CNN might get the message. And CNN just did a redesign of the redesign, and it’s now much more usable. I need to do a follow-up comparison.)

      -rob.

  16. The new CNN NEWS home page with all the adds, lists, and misleading arrows is simply horrible! I HATE it and am looking at other sources of news now. Too frenetic! Too misleading! Too time consuming! and basically boring.

  17. I used to love the CNN site – today is the LAST time I will ever visit. I HATE HATE HATE those annoying story menus that come from the right and left when I am reading a story. Blocks my view – SO ANNOYING. Farewell CNN! And I don’t live in NYC so why can’t I change my location setting? ARGH!!!!

    1. Ditto. I can’t read at a normal pace if the first & last two words of every sentence are blocked from view.

  18. it’s now july of 2015 and the site is as slow as ever… i can’t stand that when i click onto a link can automatically begins and ad and then the video portion of the story… its slow and clunky and just horrid

    1. Try viewing CNN.COM on an iPad. It’s awful! You wait forever for all the ads to populate. Then as you reach to touch a link, the link suddenly moves down due to an ad on top of the screen that pushes all content down the page. You end up touching a different link/story than you intended. Once you finally get the page you wanted, many times it reloads when you are about half way through reading the article, due to an error on the page. Useless!

  19. I used to get me news from cnn.com, but since they changed I hardly use the site, the problems is the HHUUGGEE pictures plus the repetitive news links and worse there are two, three day old headlines all over…
    I’m using msn.com now.

  20. CNN are a bunch of Coksukers. There’s so much video, adds, and terms of service agreement popups it’s beyone annoying.

    The arrogant CS(ers) there won’t take any advice from their viewers. Many of their text stories contain errors in reporting, misspellings, and bad grammar. I guess they went to more video since their writers can’t write at the 8th grade level.

  21. The CNN site is so annoying with all the unneeded video and picture content, numerous adverstisements.. and then plugging their TV partnership shows like “Bourdain” and that old hack “Mike Rowe.”

    First off, most of us would like to kick in the nuts whomever is responsible for CNN’s horrible, horrible .. extremely annoying video content. Then we’d like to tell the person “We hate Anthony Bourdain show,” he’s an arrogant SOB. Then we’d say “get rid of Mike Rowe… nobody watches those shows…” Tell him to buy a new hat and jump in a lake.

    Seriously, is anything more aggravating then seeing an AD for Mike Row or Anthony Bourdain on CNN’s news site???

  22. This is a screamingly successful revamp of CNN site…if you’re CNN and are pushing hard for app adoption, and shoving browser users aside. CNN can endure some bad reviews for a limited time.

  23. It is horrible, I used to browse CNN on my lunch break, now I don’t have the patience to wait for it to load and shut down several times. They have to know this is a problem, why is it not being fixed?

  24. It seems they have gone from 10mill hits to 4.8

    Yes, I used to go there every day. I would go to other sites too, but even though I felt they leaned a little left, I still felt they were the most honest.

    Now I have been going to MSN.com (Not MSNBC)

  25. What happened to the automatic dropdowns on the banner that say WORLD, US, OPINION, HEALTH? I have to click on each one now to get it open. Much better when I could easily scan the stories and pick what I wanted.

  26. It’s not just CNN.
    Too many other news sites have gone the same way with excessive scrolling – which either;-
    a) feels like more work (why would a News site make the visitor work harder?)
    b) disorientates the reader (How LONG is this page? Where WAS that item?)

    Mostly with:
    i) over-sized, screen-filling photos,
    ii) fewer visible headlines to invite exploration – replaced with fewer (often pointless) photos
    iii) empty white space, GIANT headlines, over-large font with over-wide linespacing

    Often this comes with loss of color (so fewer visual clues to distinguish between elements) – and grey text, which causes eye-strain all the extra (glaring) white space.

  27. If there is too much “space” (white or otherwise) you are probably still viewing the page at 100%. I found out a long time ago when widescreen monitors replaced the old TV screen type monitors that you need to view most pages at 125%, not 100%. You may need to increase the size of the letters font as well. Presto! No more empty spaces. I agree though … it takes a long time for CNN.com to load. It takes a long time for other news sites to load too .. and sometimes I get the “long running script” message from Windows and it has to refresh CNN’s home page and some of the others. There are some I cannot watch at all … too much advertising. All those stupid ads screw up my computer so I can’t read the page. I also find it annoying that CNN.com no longer allows embedding of their videos directly from their site. You have to go to their CNN YouTube site to get embeddable videos for your own sites now … and hope they have what you are looking for. A lot of times the videos you see on the main site are not available on their YouTube site.

  28. Why does the CNN page jump up and down. You’re reading a paragraph and then it jumps and you lose your place. Extremely frustrating. I’m going to go over to BBC as my homepage.

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