Eye Witness News (ewn.co.za) has a few issues.

First let me say that I like the idea of a new, fresh news site… EWN could quickly become a serious player in the news arena, but before they do so they’re going to need to fix a few issues.

I sent an email listing some of these issues to the Primedia team. I know it got there because people who know people said there was some flapping and urgent updating that happened as a result of the email… However, I’m yet to get any form of reply whatsoever… which I think is just rude.

(update: A few things (like the comments about Mandela) have been fixed, but the overwhelming majority is still as it was when I wrote this list a few days ago. The site however seems to be suffering from lots and lots of timeouts now.)

This list is by no means exhaustive…

1. You need to add a DNS record for ewn.co.za (so that http://ewn.co.za actually works)

2. You need to add RSS, preferably ATOM, with a number of sub feeds, geographic locality etc.

3. You need to remove your stupid comments from your html source… not only is it dumb, but people WILL take offence.

<!–<li><a href=”#”>Mandela Gives Birth to a Gorilla </a><span class=”timeadded”>2&nbsp;days&nbsp;ago </span> </li><li><a href=”#”>Prengant Child attacks Mandela</a><span class=”timeadded”>3&nbsp;days&nbsp;ago </span></li><li><a href=”#”>Tourists Can’t Give Enough Birth </a><span class=”timeadded”>1&nbsp;day&nbsp;ago&nbsp;</span></li>–>

etc

4. You need to make sure all your templates actually work… for instance this one is a little too concise —
http://www.ewn.co.za/story.aspx?id=4013

5. You need to protect yourself from SQL injection and handle any attempts gracefully.
ie. http://www.ewn.co.za/articleprog.aspx?id=40%2709

6. You should probably consider looking into better urls for your articles, specifically for SEO purposes.

7. You should also probably add meta descriptions (and possibly tags) to your article pages. This will help display relevant content in search engine results.

8. Your pages do not even come close to validating XHTML transitional.

9. You need a mobile version! This is easy to implement!

10. That logo… It’s very 90’s.

11. Bonus Tip: One of my biggest gripes with the other news sites is how they never allow you to view larger versions of their images. Implementing Lightbox2 over you existing site will be easy and help
differentiate yourselves from the other players.

12. Your site search is broken in Firefox and Safari and is unstable in IE6 and 7.

13. Your server errors (timeouts etc) need to be handled more gracefully. At the moment your site displays the default .NET error pages, which is something that only the developers should be seeing.

14. Your comment form gives no indication that it hasn’t submitted due to invalid data. This will confuse users.

15. Besides the SQL Injection issues, users who search for any string that contains an apostrophe will be greeted by a rather ugly error page. Try search for o’grady.

16. You need to remove all your test data from your database. http://www.ewn.co.z/articleprog.aspx?id=183 etc

17. You should add a clearfix after your pull-out-quote on your article pages. This will ensure that articles that start with single character words like “A” don’t end up displaying the first character to the right of the pull-out with the rest of the article below the pull-out. See http://www.ewn.co.za/articleprog.aspx?id=4021

18. Your logo should be a link to your landing page. This has become a web standard and a lot of users will expect it to do so.

19. You should sanitise your article source before your editors submit it so that you don’t end up with styling imported from MS Word which can break your layout. ie.Β 

<p class=”MsoNormal” style=”MARGIN: 0cm 0cm 0pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 12pt; tab-stops: 18.0pt 91.6pt 137.4pt 183.2pt 229.0pt 274.8pt 320.6pt 366.4pt 412.2pt 458.0pt 503.8pt 549.6pt 595.4pt 641.2pt 687.0pt 732.8pt”>

Not only is it ugly but it will repeatedly break your validation.

eg. on http://www.ewn.co.za/articleprog.aspx?id=4033

20. While it’s debatable whether this is a true bug, there is a fair amount of functionality on your site that is broken when the user disables javascript.

21. As I’m browsing the site I am hitting a lot of timeouts. This indicates that your server is probably struggling. Most likely due to bad coding and/or a database that isn’t tuned properly.

22. Your cache control is not good. You should probably add far future expire headers to all your static resources. This will speed up the site for regular users. Also, combine and gzip your js. This will also decrease load on your site and help with all the timeouts.

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5 thoughts on “Eye Witness News (ewn.co.za) has a few issues.

  1. Poor show not getting back to you- after all you ARE doing QA for free.
    I doubt Ill ever go back after such a disappointing intro. so let us know whether they ever fix the issues pls

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