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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. The new CNN website is a disaster. For years I had CNN as my homepage. It was great to quickly browse through the captions (or headlines) in each of the categories in which I was interested. My browser is Firefox and my internet connection is very fast so usually downloading anything is very fast. However, the new CNN website takes forever to load, is very disjointed with lots of large pictures everywhere and very poor flow when trying to read the various captions, let alone trying to click on one to get it to open. The colors are terrible and make reading very difficult. Good bye CNN, FOX is now my homepage.

  2. Wow! That was an amazing quantifiable analysis of why my computer is running so slow on CNN and why I now hate this website. Seriously, that was great! I actually just google’d “why is my cnn web page running so slow” and it sent me to your work. I thought it was my computer or that I had some sort of virus… Now I see that the problem really is just CNN. I’ll just switch to another site. Thank you!

    1. I’m having the exact same issue on all of our home computers and laptops (6 in all). Why would CNN do this? Unconscionable.

  3. I hate the new website – the black background is hard to read and depressing and what is with the images? I want to read information! Sorry, but I’ll be using another source for my news.

  4. I agree with the criticism, especially with the high CPU usage. The new CNN website crashes so often (IE telling me that problems with the webpage caused the shutdown) that I no go to it once a week just to see if things have gotten better. They haven’t. CNN used to be my regular news check website, going to it multiple times throughout the day.

    1. CNN crashes frequently, can’t be displayed, times out, or becomes unresponsive. This happens on all 5 of the computers in this house, and all of these computers are well-maintained, updated, and less than 3 years old. CNN used to be my go-to site … for the last several weeks since it’s redesign – it’s my “last resort” site.

  5. Let me quantify from a purely simple perspective.

    The huge photos and the huge type font dumbs down CNN so that I feel that I am trying to read a 3rd grade story book.

    News? Nope. This is the dumbing down of America.

    If CNN feels their readers are this stupid, then they have insulted me, and I do not need to read their news. End of story.

    Buh-bye now.

  6. I am unable to view the new CNN site. I have an older computer and it usually crashes when I try to open it. The old format worked so nicely, I visited it almost daily. Any recommendations for a replacement?

  7. I too dislike the new CNN website.
    I am using CBSNews.com which is a good site.

    Too bad. CNN barely loads now on my iPhone 4. Guess they expect me to buy another phone….too bad.

    Oh, and no I’m not a novice user. I have been a Systems Engineer at Microsoft for several years….this is silly to have to deal with.

  8. i hate it also –don’t even use as much now and it is never updated –same stories are on the site for 2 weeks it seems —going down hill for sure

  9. I certainly hope someone@ cnn is reading all these posts… i used to check in multiple times a day..but now.. after the “upgrade” i cant even click on a story… half dont respond to clicking.. and half of the stories that respond jump into a completely different story than the one i clicked on… my frustration level with the new site is akin to my feelings for my ex-wife just before i filed for divorce… that was 18 years ago.. best decision i ever made. Looks like im going to be tryin BBC… peace everyone..

  10. I could literally crao a better website. Seriously. I had CNN as my homepage for years. Now I’m on abcnews. I can’t imagine there is even ONE person that finds their new site better in any way. Amazing failure of epic proportions and that’s putting it lightly.

  11. What’s to like about it? The internet has been completely destroyed by sites exactly like CNN.com. I’m running a brand new beefed up Macbook Pro with 100Mbps internet connection. It takes 16 seconds to load CNN.com, most of the time spent by HTTP GET’s to ad services. Modern browser features and programming languages are extremely optimized for fast internet performance, but misuse and overloading as seen on CNN.com give users the worst experience possible. Half the time, the video ad plays and the content I actually wanted to see fails to load. It’s hard to get news on a PC these days without this experience.

  12. I completely agree. The site is horrible to navigate. I used to be on CNN every day from my iPad sometimes sharing my opinions, I no longer do this. I have not open the CNN page in months, it takes me too long to figure out where everything is and it is way too slow on both iPad and laptop…I lost interest in the site. “Leave well enough alone” applies here.

  13. CNN site sucks now on iPhone. So much better when I could load the old desktop site, but not anymore. Goodbye!

    1. Mike, I copy that. Reading “CNN.com” on my iPhone used to be a pleasure. Now it’s impossible. May auld acquaintence be forgot! Fare thee well!

  14. I can’t stand the new CNN I use to check it at least once a day but now. Forget it. It’s bizarre.

  15. In a highly competitive news market, it was a GREAT idea to make you site inaccessible. Heads should roll.

  16. New cnn site is very slow on my iPad. The page either locks up, or takes forever to load so I try and click on a link and the page stutters and I end up going to a page I did not intend. That or I get an error saying the page must reload while I am reading an article. Bottom line is I go to cnn page less and less. Obviously the opposite of what you would think would be intended. Obviously major FAIL on web design. Well done on the article. You did your homework and I wholheartedly agree with your assessment

  17. I hate this website now! I am looking for a new website to keep me informed. Either it has all pictures with little story, or no pictures and you have to scroll way down the page to find the story! UGH .

  18. Agreed! This site was created to be more mobile friendly, but is basically unusable on my iPad due to constant crashes (IE and Chrome).

  19. I do not like the new CNN layout! It’s difficult to navigate, take up too much space with the huge photos and takes longer to find stories I want to read. I am surfing local sites more (FoxDC, Washington Post and ABC 7 – Washington). Good by CNN until you fix the mess!

  20. CNN should fire idiots who created this over bloated with graphics site. This is worse than a piece of s…t. Almost impossible to use.

  21. I personally would rather READ the news, scan through if I choose. If I wanted to get my news in video format, I would turn on the TV. Now the majority of the news on CNN is in video segments and pictures. whats up with that? Im sure advertising has a lot to do with it.

    1. i go to cnn maybe once every couple of weeks. really i just hope someone in this thread (whose comments have been rolling in for a few months) tells me they have changed back.

  22. Based on the new redesign and enormous unnecessary use of space on my device, I will never use CNN.com again.
    Great job by CNN……NOT

  23. CNN’s site sucks so bad that I no longer visit. The long running script bogs my computer out and makes all functions unusable. So long CNN.

  24. I miss CNN.. This new site is not worth the trouble. Headlines are confusing at best and I don’t feel as though I get “latest alerts or updates” unfortunately… I have moved to new site. Will keep checking to see if site changes.. Miss the old one.

    I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

  25. Yes!!!! Finally recognition of this horrid recreation!!! I loved the OLD site, which was my home screen then. Now, I cringe opening up the new site. I hope they fix it soon!!!

  26. yeah it’s horrible. It used to be alright pretty good for mobile. But its too slow and the content is not as good and there’s more commercials it’s unusable

  27. Agreed, this will probably have a lot of people go to BBC news or other sources, the web team need to seriously be replaced.

  28. Cnn money on mobile also redirects you from article clicked on from facebook to mobile homepage and you have to relocate the original article you clicked on. Cnns mobile version also jumps around a lot when you try scrolling through articles. I agree the website was so much better before this latest redesign.

  29. For years CNN was my default online news gateway, BUT the new site and its HUGE pictures is dedicated more to “looks” than to NEWS; and the whatever they have in the “news” is so outdated and worst of all: those articles LINGER for so long is painful.

  30. I’m finding the same problem with a lot of different news websites. They are trying to run so many scripts on one page that I have to first turn off my speakers so some advertising BS or Audio/video feed doesn’t jump out at me and then I have to Compose the text of my comments in my email and cut and paste it into the comments.

    Note to advertizers: I will NEVER buy anything from anyone who places ads on websites or especially on Youtube which targets the region of the country where I live. And by the way, Youtube, I am not in the market for a new Chevy Truck from Smith Kendall motors in Portland. I just bought a new Ford Ranger from the Ford Dealer down the street because I refuse to patronize online advertiser.

  31. I agree I cannot stand the new CNN layout, I read news from work alot and I don’t want graphics and video, I used to generally open 5 or 10 articles at a time in seperate browser and skim the articles quickly. This video centric design has pretty much destroyed the site as a news source for me.

  32. This is a worldwide problem. All websites are turning in these hideous layouts. Maybe it’s better for mobile users on smal screens but for desktop users it’s becoming a nightmare. I use a large screen but without any information, scroll scroll and still not much. And it’s also chaotic, with information all over the place. A clean organized website with menu’s and most important things above the fold. I don’t have a smartphone or tablet and yet they’re pissing me off so much.

  33. Couldn’t agree more.

    Deleted my bookmark and most likely will never visit that site again. I was a multi-daily visitor for 13 years!

    No longer – bad design to spring on us all.

  34. My MAJOR annoyance is the video that plays automatically! I open a page such as CNN and open the stories that i am interested in, within new tabs, close the main page, then read all the tabs, returning to the main page, after the story in the last tab. The auto-play video starts sound coming from many tabs all at once! VERY annoying !

  35. This is the least useable version of CNN yet… Excessive memory use, high CPU utilization, videos play automatically even when the story isn’t video only, slow page load times, ads loading and reloading. WTF?

  36. CNN was my home page since their beginning. How disappointing it is now. Why?
    Ads? Kind of a devolving spiral, eh CNN. Bye

  37. Add to the discussion the mystery behind tracking down which of the ads is moving and talking? It takes so long to load that usually the graphics don’t follow the sound, but I know some ad is talking to me from somewhere. Hilarious and pathetic all in the same case.

  38. Sent to CNN:
    I’m fed up. I’ve suffered with your bloated website repeatedly crashing my browser. I bite my tongue when your ads/stories autoplay when I’m just trying to read the story. I’ve tried to overlook the ridiculous National Enquirer style 100pt fonts and sensationalist headlines. I’ve learned to avoid the ad infested clickbait links disguised as news. But the very last straw is looping autoplay ads in the margin that can’t be muted and play at the same time as the news video. I can’t hear anything with these things playing over top of each other. I just can’t take your clueless web design anymore. Goodbye.

  39. I hate it! It’s bothered me ever since they changed it. Slows down my macbook pro, stupidly big pictures, videos, and where is the content…I’m left looking at media all the time. Show me some articles and reduce the CPU demand…it pisses me off everytime now, and think I need to find another website to get my news from.

  40. New mobile site freezes my phone every time. This doesn’t happen on any other sites. Switching to msnbc.

  41. I have now all but abandoned CNN.com because of the overuse of graphics, the reduced news content, the difficulty of finding articles of interest, not to mention the performance hit and frequent ‘lockups’ I experience.

    The abject stupidity of the designers of the ‘new’ CNN website is astonishing. A news website should not be a video game nor a photo gallery that uses snippets of text as graphics separators.

    “Every pixel on the screen should provide useful information otherwise it does not belong there.” Edward Tufte

  42. My main complaint with CNN is the newer ads that have movement. Whenever I try to read an article that has one of these ads my iPhone screen won’t even respond to me scrolling down to read the story. The layout sucks, but the flash ads or whatever they are are completely locking up my phone. GET RID OF THE ADS CNN!

  43. Cnn.com has been my news website of choice for years. However, I cannot stand the new version! The new version displays far less stories to click on and when u r on a smartphone it gets worse. I’ll be switching to another news source.

  44. It’s a trend and I don’t think it’s stoppable. It started way back in the 70s with the introduction of “happy news”. This was advice to local outlet to make their shows appear friendlier, more comforting, more informal, and generally less serious. ALL NEWS PROGRAMMING is infected with that today.

    Then came the OJ trial. That led to the death of CNNHN as we once new it. CNNHL is now part of the Nancy Grace Group of Networks. And CNN appears headed that way. (Look at the stupid “shows” they now run. Anthony Bourdain (?), Mike “somebody has to do it” and so on. Also the news is no longer called the news. It’s called Anderson Coooper 360, or Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room. In other words the news readers are now “stars” around whom the news revolves instead of the other way around.

    And I forgot 911. That lead to 24/7 coverage that ran for days and weeks. The recent airliner that went down in the Pacific? CNN ran that story 24 hours a day. I know, I woke up at 3am a couple of times and there it was. Always screaming “breaking news” when there was absolutely no such thing.

    On the first day we knew that a plane (flight number, aircraft type, time of last radio contact, time of last “radar” contact (really, it’s not radar at all, it’s transponders and completely different technology but CNN doesn’t think you should know that.

    CNN too is well on it’s way to joining the Nancy Grace Group (someone should shoot that woman and put millions of people out of their misery.

    Ted Turner was a genius and visionary and very humanitarian. He build a great thing when no one else believed it could be done. It even reached the point that when CNN was broadcasting LIVE from Baghdad and no one else was that Tom Brokaw closed the Nightly News with the words, “CNN, their not just a little network anymore”. (I may not have the quote just right).

    CNN is no longer my primary new source.
    CNN is dead.
    Long live CNN

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