Enterprises are launching “corporate portals,” gateway sites that act as an entryway to both a company’s Web presence and its intranet. In this column, Web consultant Kelly McKnight gives his opinion on a corporate portal, highlighting strengths and weaknesses that may translate to your company’s Web presence. The following index provides an objective look at the site’s features.
Kelly’s thoughts on the Washington Post Web site
The trouble with reviewing newspaper Web sites is that I find the content so interesting that I spend hours reading when I should be reviewing. I think this is a comment about the future of newspapers. Like the review I did last week about The New York Times’ site, The Washington Post‘s Web site grabbed me and dragged me in and kept me there for a long time.

Good journalism will do that to you I guess.

It’s kind of ironic that I am investigating the newspaper best known for its investigative reporting. I found the newspaper home page well laid out and well organized. The action photo on it really added some drama to a story I didn’t plan to read, enticing me to finish the article.

Compared to the Times site, there was one feature I didn’t like about the Post’s: the flashing banners. Oh, I can hear the marketing department scream: “Flashing banners catch peoples’ eyes.“ “Right,” I say, “but I have seen research that points out that people have been conditioned to avoid looking at banners with animation because it distracts them from the purpose at hand.”

Regardless of which stance is correct, I still don’t like animated banners. That is, of course, I don’t like any animated banners that I have not created for my clients. My animated banners are works of art.

Moving on from this thin ice I’m on, I really liked the Photo Gallery area. I went just to scope it out and, after looking at a couple of photos, I ended up reading the whole article. It was about two villages—one Serbian and the other Albanian—that were only a mile apart. It was a great story, but like the home page, it was the photo that triggered my interest.

Another nice feature was movie reviews that had the theater listings right underneath them—a very nice idea.

What I didn’t like about the Post’s Web site was the speed. It was really slow. Hey guys, what’s the problem? Is it Doubleclick’s measuring and profiling? Then get rid of them and get some speed. I looked at your site using a T3, and you were still way too pokey. I lingered so long on some areas because I dreaded the wait I knew I faced changing areas.

The verdict
Speed it up and kill all the animated banners, and you’ll have a great site going.

Kelly McKnight is a principal of Via Internet Studio , a consulting firm that specializes in corporate Web site design, Internet marketing, and e-commerce. You can reach Kelly by e-mail here .

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