Radio Industry Website Review – Part One of a Never-ending Series

The RadioNX Completely Opinionated Radio Industry Web Site Review:

Radio and Records – The New Shiny

Radio and Records recently had a nice face lift, and I must say, it looks great. Honestly, I did kind of like the old site, it was, how should we say… familiar. But the popups for news items on the old design endlessly got on my nerves, always opening and closing windows. Click and close, click and close (add infinitum add nauseum), it could get pretty darn annoying. The new design is a lot easier on the eyes and has a nice cool, blue, shiny Web 2.0 (whatever that is) look to it. The updated Radio and Records site isn’t inundated with flashing and annoying adds and pop-ups, like a lot of radio industry sites seem to be enamored with. Let’s face it, for content guys, sometimes we screw up on the content. Maybe it’s our familiarity with clutter with our our own medium that compels us to design such horrible webs sites filled with clutter and lots of blinking annoying little boxes of seizure inducing fluff.

Radio Clutter Does Not Translate Well to Web Design

All in all the new Radio and Records redesign is very professional and easy to navigate. With the update I have noticed that they appear to be getting better crawls and betterradioandrecords1.jpg SEO ranking, in just one day! Amazing. So I decided to fire up my Lynx text web browser to see what Google sees when it crawls the site. Unfortunately the Radio and Records site just times out on Lynx at the root domain. Hmmm. So… I decided to query Lynx to hit a single page. Honestly, the SEO isn’t all that well thought out. The top of the page is full of links to ads and non-content for close to 50 lines! I guess it’s proof positive you can get a decent Google rank without playing by the rules.

Radio and Records has decided to use javascript menus for its new navigation on site redesign. Blech. It’s tedious, hard to navigate and as you can see by the Lynx screenshot, litters the page with navigation links. At least the links are descriptive of the site and industry. The content boxes to the left for featured content on the updated site are a much better addition than the old radioandrecords2.jpg pop-ups. Bravo. However I keep trying to click on the headline to navigate to the story. No link there. You’ve got to click on the “More” button to read the story. Bad mystery navigation.

All in all the new site design is great. The real meat of Radio and Records always has been it’s content with well written articles by industry professionals. While Radio and Records may have taken an on-line onslaught from their main Internet competitor in the last few years, the content is still A+. Radio and Records is still the best portal for the combination of Radio and Music Biz information, commentary and news on the Net. – With Very Little Access, Unless You Show Your Badge

Allaccess rumbled on to the scene a few years ago and steamrollered the radio on-line competition into submission. Allaccess was pretty innovative in its heyday and offered content that the other guy’s just did’t have. While Allaccess is still loaded with great content and is the de facto site for finding radio job leads (that is if there were any radio jobs left), the site just looks… well… very long in the tooth. Allaccess is just, so, last century dude. While I think this site has some of the best and most informative radio content and is the best source for innuendo and radio rumors on the net, it’s just a nightmare to navigate and use. Why? Here’s my Allaccess “Hate List”:

Allaccess – Your Papers Please!

You still have to register and log-in to view the content on Allaccess. Come on, I understand you wanted to build a database of users, but logging in to just view content? Even the New York Times threw in that towel. Get rid of the login please!allaccess1.jpg

On the subject of logging in, half the time it just doesn’t work. I’ve spent literally 5 minutes waiting for the Allaccess page to load and quite often it just times out. Really, really annoying. If Allaccess didn’t have such great content, the majority of its users would have bailed on the site a long, long time ago.

More on the subject of logging in: It takes even longer with Firefox. If I change my user agent to Exploder, it can speed up the process, but it often times out with the world’s worst browser as well.

Still more on the subject of logging in: Once I do successfully log-in using Firefox, I often can’t get the content on their main frame to load. I have to switch to Safari or launch Windows in a virtual machine and use Exploder. Argh!!!! We’ve Been Framed!

Let’s fire up Lynx and check out the Allaccess SEO. Oh, My, God! The site content on the Allaccess home page is just links three frames. Wha? OK, I’ll play along. Lets click the “mainFrame” and keep our fingers crossed. Sorry Charlie, it’s a blank page with links back allaccess2.jpg to the two other frames. Oh, what the hell, lets throw fortune to the wind and try the “main” frame link. What have I got to loose? Finally, text! Woo Hoo! And just links, which of course I can’t navigate to unless I log-in. No wonder I never see any Google or Yahoo Allaccess hits when I’m searching. This is SEO no hat. And frames? I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a site that’s built around frames. Outside of Allaccess that is. Frames were kinda cool (I guess) back in the ’90s, but so was AOL (I guess).

OK, the good stuff about Allaccess. They have great, well written content. That’s all well and good, but if I can’t get to it or find it, what good is it? If a tree falls in the forest and all that. It’s Annoying Pop-Under Ad like having a great sounding radio station that refuses to accept a preset, so you endlessly scan the dial trying not to rear-end the truck in front of you. So Allaccess… get rid of the registration (finally), loose the frames (you will look much better without glasses), stop the pop-unders (annoying and insulting) and redesign the site to reflect where we are in the oughts, not the ’90s. Allaccess is chocked full of really great content and commentary that you won’t find anywhere else on the Net, but it’s as dated looking and user unfriendly as a 2600 baud bulletin board.

Radio Ink – Now with Web 2.0 Goodness

Radio Ink had a site re-design a few months ago, and it looks and works great. Radio Ink is hands down the best looking and easiest to navigate radio industry site on the Inter-webs. radioink1.jpg It’s full of white space, easy to read and laid out in a logical and well thought out design.

The design is a tip of the hat to Radio Ink’s history of really great looking print publications. Sure Radio and Records had that grungy Rolling Stone look, and it was fun to get ink all over your fingers, but Radio Ink was glossy and shiny and drew you to it even if you weren’t in a sales cubicle.

Radio Ink’s site is full of Web 2.0 goodness (whatever that is). The splash page lists the news in a blog-like fashion by categories with excerpts. Navigation is a snap, with only one drop-down menu for “Subscription,” no code bloat here. To the right, there’s even an embedded flash video. My god, this looks like a real site!

Let’s check out the SEO: Not the best SEO I’ve ever seen and I had to slog through 3 cookies to get the page to load. The first thing I see when the page loads is “Advertisement, Sign Up, Email Address and Submit” Finally, four lines down is the site description, followed by a couple of links for “Eric Rhoad’s Blog” and navigation links, another search box, a couple of more lines dealing with how to subscribe, 20 more lines of links and then finally…. content! Hey, at least I can see the content (see previous site review).radioink2.jpg

Radio Ink Proves There is a Difference Between White Space and White Noise

Radio Ink is the best designed and thought out radio site on the Net (wait, did I say that before). It’s a pleasure to use and honestly, I wish these guy’s would win! (whatever that means…) But as one of my mentors always said about the radio biz, “It’s an industry of ‘C’ students.”

One final thought on these three sites… Where is the killer site with the great forum? I’ve always been perplexed by the fact that for some odd reason the radio community never really had a great radio site with a great forum. Sure, there are a few sites based solely around a forum, but the major radio industry sites never had an active forum community. You would think as communicators, we’d communicate more.

Next time….

Friday Morning Quarterback, Inside Radio, Radio Business Report and Radio Online.