The two largest newspapers in Pittsburgh — the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — have similarities in their products, layout, audience, and websites.
While both offer great content, they differ in how the content is organized. The Post-Gazette website prioritizes weather and breaking news by putting those content pieces in highly visible, above-the-fold areas. It follows with news story teasers and color-coded sections that mirror its print publication (Local, Sports, Opinion, etc).
The Trib, on the other hand, clearly prioritizes news-story content. It dives straight into an interactive feature for its top stories, followed by breaking news, sports, and editor’s picks. Then there are stories grouped by interest category (regional, Business, Lifestyles, etc).
Overall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website is colorful and organized with just enough white space to seem open, but not bare. There are a few places where large chunks of white space creates some dissonance from the general layout. The site offers interesting extras, such as the Archives (digital archives) and The Digs (digital photo archives with additional information on the history of the photos), as well as regional interest components like coupon circulars from area retailers and state lottery results.
By contrast, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review website has a lot less white space–which can make it appear cluttered in some areas. There are a lot of ads and sponsored content sections (from NewsMax, AdBlade, and Yahoo). They have a few intriguing extras, including their platform for classified ads and their Get Social toolbar, which offers featured videos and Trib Radio.
The Get Social toolbar connects with various apps, including Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, the Trib’s Facebook and Twitter profiles are not connected in the toolbar at this time and there is no other area on the site where links for them are available. Lost opportunity?
Speaking of lost opportunities, the Post-Gazette website had roughly 6,500 dead links out of about 20,000 total links, which could be worth looking into. It could also really benefit from making the presence of their social media accounts more apparent.
Also, a few sections are not rendering correctly. First, on the day we looked, there was no content for the Westmoreland area of their Local news section. Beyond the disbelief that there was “no news” from Westmoreland County, when a content area has no content, it can easily be programmed to hide rather than showing a blank box.
Second, their “bank rate” ticker was covering over their listing of blog posts.
The Post-Gazette desktop and mobile sites can both be slow (it takes roughly 20 to 30 seconds just to load the homepage) – this is most likely due to the large amount of images and links (there are over 200 links on the homepage alone). Overall, the site weight is about 10MB, when the average site weight is less than 2MB. It also has roughly 190 HTML and CSS validation errors.
While they could do well to look into ways to improve their load time (such as leveraging browser caching or lowering the amount of server requests), in general the layout for both the desktop and mobile version is visually inviting and user friendly.
The Trib site also takes a while to load (15 to 30 seconds). There are 114 images on the Trib homepage. Serving up all of those individual requests takes time! The Trib site weighs 4.76MB – much less than the hefty 10MB Post-Gazette site (though the Trib’s is still more than double the 2MB average).
While they have relatively few CSS validation errors (23 total), the Trib’s HTML markup is riddled with 299 validation errors, which should be checked out. Still, all together, the Trib only has 98 bad links out of nearly 22,000, which is very impressive.
Both sites offer listings of regional events; the Post-Gazette’s deploys an engaging layout of a clean, visually-dramatic grid of activities while the Trib provides a simple text & image teaser-style listing – good for scanning! Unfortunately, several of the Trib’s event teasers are missing their accompanying images. This could be an editing oversight, or a problem in their template.
Both sites are interesting to review because they are tackling a really difficult task. It is no small effort to try and provide content that is relevant and clearly visible – from news to general interest to activities for the whole family to jobs postings – to anyone in our five county region who drops in on the site. While both websites are due for a tune-up to improve their loading speed and fix broken images or links, both are to be commended for managing their complex task in a seemingly clean and easy way.