Friday, October 07, 2005

Compliance, complacence

Much digital ink has been wasted on the atrocity that is the Times of India, and I really am not getting into that again. What is really getting to me over the past couple of days is the sheer incompetence of the website developers over at the other Indian newspapers. Bad layouts along with obviously clunky and non-compliant HTML make keeping up with any news in India a nightmare of Tolkien's middle-earth proportions.

I am on broadband at home, yet the number of time-outs on each page of the Express brings me to tears. (Note: This does not happen with other websites - at least not for every page I navigate to).

Staying on top of news and blogs with a voracious appetite has been greatly facilitated by RSS. However, India's top newspapers like the Hindustan Times and The Hindu provide no feeds. The ones the Express provides leave much to be desired. I really don't want to read Harish Dugh's opinions on anything. Could I have a single feed devoted to Shekhar Gupta, one to Harsha Bhogle, and one to Ashok Malik?. Maybe one for all columnists, which isn't too bad. Even the new upstarts, like the Mumbai Mirror are not much better, and the old suspect - Mid-Day is still so.

I'm not really in favor of New York Times' new policy of charging to read Dowd/Friedman et al, but there are other reasons for that. At least they are providing serious value for their online reader - all for the fair price of $50 annually (believe me, by middle-class US standards, it really isn't much money). Moreover, for the (30 second?) price of actually logging in even without paying, the amount of content available is pretty reasonable - and well laid-out.

The Indian digi-rags need to understand that Indians online are likelier to be educated, better-off and more likely to get interested in creative ads. Moreover there's all the NRI junta. For those of us exposed to slick US online ads, do they really expect us to click on the flashing 'remit money to india' banner? ('99 called, they want their annoying GIF banner ad back). The popups are another story - a tribute to Indian ingenuity, they manage to overcome even Firefox's pop-up blocker.* The only thing that keeps them out is the IE pop-up blocker's high setting, where you press Ctrl even for 'voluntary' popups.

Get some good website designers, clean out the crud. Get some nice CSS and better layouts and I'm sure there'll be some good coming out of it. Less is more.

*I am in the process of trying the AdBlock extension, so the jury's still out on that.

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