I’ve been playing around with the new AOL site and I think it’s really well done.
AOL and Sphere have been partners since beginning of this year. We started by deploying our Sphere Related Content plug-in on all AOL News, Sports and Entertainment articles. In the redesign, AOL added a tag cloud called Blog Chatter that links to the most popular topics in the blogosphere. When the reader clicks on any of the topics in the tag cloud, they’re redirected to Sphere to see the complete list of high quality blog posts on that topic. It’s a simple idea but very well done and another important opportunity to connect the conversation happening in mainstream and conversational media.
Overall, I love the new site. The new design divides the page into three vertical columns, with the heart of the programming at the center column. There, AOL’s editors and producers update and select top news stories, videos and photos in one place. Much like a blog, new stories push older ones lower as they are posted. Navigation is very simple. The color scheme is simple and unobtrusive, yet not boring. They have integrated video throughout in a simple, seamless manner. Articles are clean and flow well. The “story highlights” are super crisp. Nearly all stories include social media buttons that let people easily add stories to services like Digg, del.icio.us, Newsvine, Reddit and Netscape. Further, many of AOL’s stories include a thumbs up/thumbs down rating widget, another example of embracing conversational media.
You may notice that the Sphere Related Content Plug-in is missing but it will be added back soon along with some other higher exposure related content links.
Congrats to Lewis D’Vorkin, Kevin Lockland and their team for a very impressive redesign.