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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.

480 Comments

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  1. I’m starting to run out of patience. The new website is a train wreck. I receive an error due to a long-running script that prevents the page from loading. CNN has always been my choice of news, but that’s going to change unless something is done soon.

    1. Agree. The new design is horrible. Endless images, resource drain, good luck trying to find text or to navigate for different stories. I may have to leave until they get it right.

    2. Completely agree. I noticed lately that my laptop battery is lasting only 3-4 hours as compared to 7-8 hours. I did everything I could to reduce my battery consumption to no avail. Now I know why. This new CNN design is a disaster. I, too, am going to look for my news elsewhere.

    3. Agree also, CNN has the worst Internet pages of any new source. Al-Jezeera, Fox, Vice all have more user friendly sites. Clicking on CNN usually brings more ads rather than news. Worst change ever. Changed a good site into pos.

  2. DITTO. Goodbye CNN. Long running script error? Are you kidding me? There are other media sites out there and I’m scrapping CNN.

  3. The new CNN web site is complete garbage. You have to wait forever before you can click on anything. The most stupid thing CNN has ever done

  4. I really enjoyed reading CNN, but now I’m going to go elsewhere- this re-design is an absolute catastrophe- shame on you CNN.

  5. I tried to send feedback to CNN to let them know how badly their new website sucked but I couldn’t find an appropriate email address. So I just gave up, took them off of my toolbar and started looking for a replacement. My two main go-to sites for news were BBC and CNN, now it’s just BBC. I found this article by searching for “why does the CNN website suck?” Not fond of Yahoo either so I rarely use them anymore, oh well, I’m sure I’ll find an acceptable alternative eventually.

  6. my computer takes less time to boot up than the CNN home page to load. and it also cripples my PC. CNN, please go back to the old schema! I have no problems with advertisements as it’s a free site, but something has drastically changed recently with your data loads. I’m guessing performance has worked great within your development areas as servers are all internal, but for the external worlds not so much.

  7. CNN has succumbed to the almighty dollar. This has been happening for the last few years. When the majority of the stories end with a ? (question mark) you know it’s nothing more than a tabloid. The more “clicks” the more the money they get from their advertisers. It’s unfortunate that that the mass populous has no idea how they are being brainwashed or being taken advantage of. Their stories really do affect how people feel about important issues pertaining to a better world for all. They have done nothing to provide a better life for anybody. It’s F-ed up beyond belief.

  8. CNN should look at NBC”s web page design to learn how it is done. I’ve switched to NBC because it’s much easier to find the content you are looking for. Click on politics and you actually find articles about politics.

  9. Couldn’t agree more. Old CNN was great. I could see 2 dozen stories on left side, neatly listed, ready to be clicked. It was actually enjoyable. I browsed the list, chosing 3 or 4 I found ‘juicy’, and clicking them into separate Firefox tabs to read at my leisure.

    Now? Crap. I have no other word for it. And I agree with you — I do not want giant photos clogging up my viewing area. I want to see a lot of stories, nicely categorized with catchy titles.

    I see the same problem, though, with other newsites. CBC in Canada has recently re-designed their website, and it has the same problem as CNN: big fat pictures, forcing you to scroll up and down to look for story links. BBC is not much better.

    1. I think you’ve said it best. I want a news site which is concise, not a “news magazine” format. Lists of articles, not pictures. As far as format goes, one of my favorite sites is Real Clear Politics — they do little more than list news articles (actually, links to news articles on other sites). However, on the negative side, they are focussed on politics, and their slant is conservative. Nonetheless, that’s an example of the kind of concise format I prefer.

  10. I just submitted my comments using the “Leave feedback for CNN” link above. I agree, just a terrible redesign.

    It is unusable, and a completely unappealing layout.

  11. It absolutely sucks. All the information density has gone… Now its just a few big pictures and a few words. It seems to be a trend for all news sites nowadays unfortunately. :(

  12. ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN

    I have had CNN.com on my desktop a work for many years. No more. Now it sucks up ALL of my CPU. My computer is no longer usable with CNN.com open. Now I am forcedd to check it once or twice a day.

    Also, what is up with the auto-start video? I can no longer click on stories at work without the risk of embarrassment of my speakers blaring out some new story for all to hear. If I want to hit the play button I will click it. Don’t force it on me.

    CNN gets an F- for these “improvements”!

    ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN ===== CNN

  13. I just found that using AdBlock I can block most of the News Crawl at the bottom of CNN’s new web page. The CPU went from 100% down to about 35%

  14. it is so horrible i haven’t even checked if they switched back… i don’t want to inflate their hit numbers. oddly, if they change it i’m not sure if i’ll ever know because I can’t see another news site reporting on it. guess maybe someone in this thread will say something if it changes for the better.

    1. Same here!! I do NOT want to go back to their craptastic site to see if its fixed for fear of increasing the hits on their incredibly poorly redesigned site!

  15. I can’t even load CNN in order to find an email address and complain about it. I have abandoned CNN until further notice.

  16. Where is the news CNN? We can handle more than headlines and soundbites… I want content, not more flashy photos.

  17. It’s definitely a cesspool of a site now. Someone mentioned not being able to contact them. Seems like they have taken the “we talk to you – you don’t talk to us” attitude to the limit. First, they got rid of commenting. Now they seem to not want any user feedback. You go to their help page and it has a statement that says “CONTACT US: Help us make your comments count. Use our viewer comment page to tell us what you think about our shows, our anchors, and our hot topics for the day” but there is no link to any such page. It’s kind of like “Use it if you can find it – hahahahaha.” Then on that same page they have a link to a FAQ page that looks like something from 1993 (and, of course, has nothing on the imaginary “viewer comment page.” There are really just too many idiots in management out there now.

    1. Oh, geez, how hilarious . . . I just noticed that at the top of the help page it says “In this section we have provided answers to our most frequently asked questions. If you do not see the answer to your question here, please contact us.” HOW, CNN, HOW! What idiots.

  18. So disappointed with CNN’s new design of their website. I can’t use their site anymore because the constant scrolling of info at the bottom of their page makes me ill. I get motion sickness easily and that scrolling bar makes me nauseated when I try to read any of the headlines. Couldn’t locate anywhere on their site where I could give them feedback on their design or how to stop the scrolling. Guess I’ll just have to get my news info elsewhere.

  19. The new CNN is horrible. Feels like you want to get a crayon and fill in the pics. Where are all the wonderfully human comments? If you can’t stand the heat , get out the kitchen…don’t change the kitchen to have no stove, fridge or sink.

  20. omg new CNN website is a disaster!!! the image of one story takes the whole screen!!!!!! It basically forces you to read that particular story. Navigation thru the website to find other stories takes more time than I have to read all the news together. Good bye CNN!!!!

  21. SUCKS, the new CNN site has got to be a joke, what idiot looks at that and says it’s an improvement, LOL

  22. Great article.
    The new CNN site it terrible. Period.
    People should be fired and we need to find a replacement.
    Reply to this message with suggestions for news sites that are credible and have a cleaner web interface. (Google News, MSNBC?) Thoughts?

  23. Even Fox News isn’t this stupid…what a minute! Did a Republican re-design CNN’s Website? The Plot thickens!!!

  24. Have to agree I don’t like the move to a wasteful space design. I don’t even think the tablet or small device benefits and these overly large pictures and video only prevent more descriptive news from being headlined. Its as if, these web sites think nobody reads anything anymore, they just watch a video or look at a picture and read the description. In a way, its dumbing down news and making you dig for the complete story. For me, CNN went from a proper non filtered news organization. To a rather colored and biased news organization. Maybe that’s why a lot of people with good journalism credentials have left CNN? I prefer a more un biased news organization that allows me to decide my feelings on a story or news happening. General news should not be a opinion piece or biased reporting. Yes, even Fox news has its share of filtered news. America is full of it, and I tend to sift through news sites to get a more un biased and full story. Now days sites like CNN have become more tabloid in your face news then the bland un biased reporting. Weather.com is another site bent on all flash tabloid fear and scare videos and disasters then just doing accurate weather. I guess people need to be entertained more then given accurate news? How sad is that?

  25. Looks like I entered in a room full of clutter that i want to leave right away.
    Feels like our world is so tragic you have to see it in a bold way like it is a tragic breaking news… for all news.
    CNN please change!

  26. CNN is sadly losing my news traffic due to the horrible redesign. I want to read about the news with an occasional photo but the whole mobile site has morphed into an over stimulating video nuisance that I exit before it can even finish downloading. In the past, I visited this site multiple times a day for news. Now, I only visit out of a habit that I am currently trying hard to break. Please fix this before it’s too late!

  27. It might have already been mentioned, but the site is even worse on a mobile device. I used to read 2-3 articles while sitting on the toilet. Now the page is still loading by the time I’m finished dropping a load.

    It’s complete crap.

  28. The new website is a total complete disaster!!! Have now removed CNN as the homepage on all computers at home, and at our company. The web design is a total mess… can’t believe CNN would allow such an amateur redesign of their website by people who know NOTHING about the site; about news reporting; and who haven’t a clue as to what news reporting is about Shame on you CNN… you lost a several decade subscriber to your resources by this botched redesign of your website… how could you do something like this?

  29. If I could get on their website, I would most definitely give them bad feedback. However, since I keep getting long running script errors, and can’t seem to get on their site, I’ve been going elsewhere to get my news. This is absolutely the most horrible update I’ve ever seen. To top it off – this is all with my brand new laptop. Frustrating!!!

  30. I can’t stand the new website…. I actually took to google to figure out if it was my computer (brand new HP windows 8 laptop) that was causing the errors, or the new website. Looks like I found the answer. Terrible, terrible redesign. CNN.com is now essentially unreadable for me. Freezes up every time. What a joke.

  31. I just can’t use the new site – even with all the new apps (UGH) It never loads and when/if it does i am unable to scroll down without the whole page scrolling. FRUSTRATING. I’ve tried it on the Ipad, Android tablet, and desktop. CNN – you were my fav but unless this changes and quick – its bye bye

  32. I, too, used to go to CNN for my news. No longer can do that on my laptop since CNN updated their site. Terrible job indeed! Unfortunate, added other news websites to my favorites.

  33. Really great breakdown. I have completely abandoned CNN since the redesign and you articulate why they fudged up beautifully. The most telling figure for me was the -54% drop in clickable stories. They replaced dense and easily scanable content with fluff and crap. What I find most offensive wasn’t their colossal blunder, but their failure to admit to the fact that they had made an egregious error. They set up a comment section just so they could argue with users who tried to explain why it was worse. Yes, sometimes people resist format changes because it takes time to get used to new things, but sometimes you simply make things worse instead of better and need to own up to it. CNN needs to read this article, cop to their blunder and return to their old format.

  34. The new CNN site absolutely sucks! I’ve used it as a news sources for at least the past 7 or 8 years. Now, I’m switching until they figure out that they screwed up.

  35. Like everything else in life, if you follow the money trail you will find the answer to why they did this. My guess is that by putting one or two stories “in your face” they consider these as “premium” articles and charge advertisers a premium rate. The low rate stories will be hidden away and difficult to navigate to in order to steer you where they want you. This revenue model explains why CNN is never going to listen to our complaints. What they simply don’t understand is that people go to the web because they like to CHOOSE what to consume. We want to see everything that is available and select what we are interested in. If we wanted to be force-fed their choice of content, we would just watch TV.

  36. Terrible site now. It maxes out my quad-core laptop. The mobile site equally as CPU intensive. Less news, more garbage, terrible implementation and design. I’ve started using USAToday and other sites that are MUCH better designed. I literally don’t have time to wait for their pages to load to get my news. I did a development project at CNN and heard the politics on the redesign project were awful. And, when corporate bloat is allowed to reign that’s exactly what the output is: CRAP AND LOSS OF BUSINESS. They’re being downsized and they deserve to be, I was not impressed last year from what I saw and now seeing what the “.COM” team was doing I was right. Awful. Sadly, Ted built a wonderful company and when you let the corporate idiots take over any efficiency and focus on mission is destroyed…

  37. I absolutely do not like the new CNN format. It is slower, obviously using more of my CPU resource. I have to relearn where everything is and for what? I’ll go somewhere else from now on. So long CNN. It was a good run the past 8 or 10 years.

  38. I also am gone from CNN. I have not found a landing spot yet. But I am just not happy with CNN. My dear old desktop struggles to load the homepage during peek hours.
    Our lives are being directed to visual appeasement. I have a vivid imagination, that I like to exercise. Imagery is fine, but not at the cost of losing the ease of clicking on many more stories.
    I also was not pleased when they removed the comments capability.
    They used ‘Trolls’ as the excuse. I really believe they were annoyed at the amount of negative feedback was being publicly aimed at them.

  39. As a professional web designer, I completely concur that this site is an exceptional example of what NOT to do when designing an information site. I cannot find a way to turn off the rss feed at the bottom of the screen, which I find very, very annoying. Looking for a new resource for latest news, although was a big fan of CNN. Someone in charge was napping or otherwise not in touch with users when this redesign was approved and then actually launched!

  40. I have now gone back to the BBC site, where I used go before CNN. Hope someone wakes up at CNN..

  41. The new site is absolutely terrible, and I no longer go there. It’s irritating, and makes you quickly want to leave the site when you do visit. Too much emphasis on images everywhere, the “feel” is bad, and absolutely no comments sections anywhere (one of the more entertaining parts of visiting the old CNN). On the old site you could quickly see a list of maybe 100 stories, with maybe one small scroll. It was quick, efficient, and user friendly. The new site sucks balls.

  42. Yes, I use to have CNN as my initial homepage but it just hangs with script taking too long to load. Cant even visit it anymore and I am using ie11. Tried yahoo and usatoday and they work fine. CNN, you need new programmers who know how to fix this issue. That is what low bid gets you

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