Battle of the brands: CNN versus Sky News

Sky News studio is a 24 hour operation
Sky News studio is a 24 hour operation

SPONSORED FEATURE - Which website offers the best user experience when it comes to online news and features? Revolution partnered with user experience consultancy Webcredible to assess the merits of Cnn.com and Skynews.com.

Sky News reaches 5.5 per cent of viewers across Europe, according to the latest viewing figures from the 2009 European Media and Marketing Survey, which samples 13 per cent of adults in Western Europe. CNN International fares less well, with a total share to 3.8 per cent, placing it 3rd in Europe.

With competition in the news sector heating up, and users increasingly getting news online through tools such as Twitter, we looked at how the CNN International and Sky News sites shape up against each other in terms of user experience.

Criteria under the spotlight include homepage, navigation and search, content, presentation, interaction and brand and persuasion. Overall, CNN International came out marginally better, but scores for both sites were pretty high.

 

CNN.com

Homepage 9/10

CNN International's homepage is well designed with only a couple of issues: the primary navigation should stand out more and the overall length could be shortened to reduce the amount of scrolling required.

Navigation 19/25

The navigation and search are good overall. Areas for improvement include the visibility of the navigation and prompts to help users find their way around the site. For example, there is no breadcrumb trail and some stories take users to a sub-site with no prior warning.

Content 20/25

While the content's great, its presentation needs improving. There's no visual formatting like bullets or bolding to help users scan the copy. And links within articles lead to search results and comments - an unexpected result.

Presentation 14/15

CNN International employs a clean look  and feel to its pages, allowing users to scan at their own pace and find information relevant and important to them. It would be an improvement if the default font size was bigger.

Interaction 11/15

While the overall interaction on CNN International is pretty good, it falls down at error prevention and rectification. For example, when registering not all errors are reported back to the user in the first instance. Those errors that are reported aren't always accompanied by helpful guidance on how to fix them. Surprisingly, some error messages appear in pop-ups: a complete no-no from a user experience point of view.

Branding 9/10

CNN International does an excellent job of getting its iconic brand across and persuading users to stay on the site.

Overall 82/100

The final score is reflective of a well-rounded approach to CNN International's online experience. The biggest area for improvement is error handling, which isn't quite befitting of the brand. However, the layout and branding are second to none.

 

Skynews.com

Homepage 8/10

The homepage for Sky News is pretty good but is slow to load. Also, first impressions don't match expectations as the Sky News TV channel seems more high-brow than the Sky News website.

Navigation 17/25

Sky's search is easily missed, sandwiched between the banner ad and the navigation block. Like CNN International, there's no breadcrumb trail to help with orientation. Within search results, there are no page numbers to help move between them and no sort or filter options to narrow down the results to a manageable number.

Content 21/25

Sky News does a slightly better job with content although there's room for improvement. As on CNN International, formatting of copy could be more user-friendly, with visual highlights. Some of Sky's categories could also be better balanced.

Presentation 12/15

The site uses a swathe of colours adding to the visual complexity of some of its pages. One's eyes end up darting between the various elements making it difficult to identify the main focal point.

Interaction 13/15

The biggest complaint with Sky News is the speed of its interactions, or the lack thereof. Users' expectations are ever increasing so any unnecessary delay means a poorer online experience. However, error handling is great with on-page validation and helpful messages.

Branding 8/10

There appear to be mixed messages when it comes to the Sky News brand - if you're a regular viewer of the TV channel then you may well be surprised when you visit the website.

Overall 79/100

Sky News scores well but is let down by its slow responses and the conflicting brand messages on TV and online. The sometimes overwhelming visual experience would benefit from a more mellow approach.

Conclusion

CNN International fares better in this contest, but Sky News isn't far behind; demonstrating that the bar is set pretty high in the online news sector. A few tweaks here and there, on both sites, would cement what are already fairly robust user experiences.

This sponsored article is courtesy of Webcredible.

 

About Webcredible

Webcredible is a user experience consultancy, offering a range of usability, accessibility and design services for websites, intranets, mobile devices and applications. Founded in 2003, the UK-based consultancy researches, designs and builds interfaces to support user requirements and business goals.

Webcredible adopts a knowledge sharing approach to its work, and its expert team regularly reviews, tests and designs websites in both the public and private sector, ensuring that companies are providing the most usable and accessible websites possible.

With a long list of global clients in the private and public sector, including AIRMILES, uSwitch.com, eBay, the BBC and the World Health Organization, Webcredible is widely regarded as one of the most respected consultancies in the user experience industry.

Over the course of this series of special reports, in conjunction with Revolution, Webcredible will be evaluating the websites of some of the top brands on the web, and pitting competing websites against each other to find out which is the most usable.

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