"When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships" – While designing good websites

“When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships”

(This is based on a sentence as referred in the article by Tufte)

I would like to expand on this concept and relate it to need for grouping related content together. The idea is simple – Our mind is less trained to correlate information and facts if they are presented in frames which are separated by time or space. Following is my analysis of the three news web-sites based on this concept.


I really appreciate the way yahoo has structured the web-site content and navigation to facilitate human cognitive reasoning. Look at the way the top navigation is designed. The main news category and the sub-news category is always visible to the user and tells him where he is where ever he is. This is useful to create the feeling that he is reading news for that particular category and not a mixed plate. The search feature is designed to support this concept by implementing “browsing leading to search”. Another noticeable feature is the way the content is segregated on each main page. For example, on home page, all main news category (text based) are displayed on the left most end of the page, sub-category in the middle and advertisements to the right most end. So, a serious new reader should only concentrate on the left most end of the page and anyone who is interested in ads should focus on the right most end.


NewYork times web-site is driven by the way content is organized on the actual news paper. For a frequent visitor, the content categories and the way it is organized might make sense, but for a non-frequent visitor like me, it looks like all cluttered. There is no separation of content on the home page based on text based items, multimedia or ads. Its like mixed vegetable. You can find anything anywhere and you have to try hard to keep track of related items. The situation is worse when I scrolled down. The same sub-categories on the left menu is repeated and is cluttered with ads. There is no sense of belongingness to a particular news category. For a thinking user like me, it makes really hard to correlate content and seek out for related items.


BBC news, even though looks somewhat similar to NewYork Times in appearance, has made a conscious decision not to clutter information, rather present them in a way that follows clear content organization and no duplication of navigation. The web-site follows constant content organization and navigation throughout the web-site, no matter which main section or sub-section the user is in. Each content type (eg: ‘Latest News’ (text based), ‘Video and Audio News’, ‘Top Stories’, ‘Around the World’ etc ) has its fixed position on the web page and it is easier to correlate and understand related news items.


Tufte E. (n.d.). PowerPoint Is Evil. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2_pr.html on May, 2008.

(c) Deepesh Joseph, 2004-2009