Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, and in that spirit two large Canadian sites have unveiled significant redesigns. “CBC.ca”:http://www.cbc.ca/ and “Sears.ca”:http://www.sears.ca/ have taken the wraps off major site overhauls.
CBC’s former site had been getting a little long in the tooth. It was a very utilitarian design with pages that essentially contained a laundry list of links to articles. That and the odd picture thrown in for some visual context. But mainly it was a fairly dry information delivery system.
The new site is a major improvement. Its grid system is far better laid out to allow readers to scan the page. The visual design has been updated to better reflect modern Web design. The navigation has been simplified into two choices Radio or TV, (actually three if you count CBC.ca as a nav item). This is an improvement from the previous navigation which was much more confusing.
One criticism, I’ve heard of the site, is that it borrows from “CNN.com.”:http://www.cnn.com/ I don’t see this being a big issue. CNN and CBC are large news gathering organizations and would end up with similar design problems. Coming to a similar design solution would seem natural.
Left hand navigation is better laid out, providing access to features like Podcasts and RSS feeds which were previously difficult to find or not available.
The CBC group does really great work in a challenging environment. The CBC is a tough place to gain consensus due to the number of people who have input. The mere fact this redesign looks as good as it does is a testament to the talented people there.
I need to disclose up front that I was not familiar with the previous Sears.ca site so I can only look at this one as a fresh site.
Sears.ca is trying to bring its site up to modern e-commerce standards. In fact “they partnered with Amazon”:http://www.onedegree.ca/2005/04/28/filtered-links-for-april-28-2005 to get this site online. The visual appeal has that candy style that is oh so 2.0. The main nav has a glow effect running horizontally through it. The navigational text is white on a white glow. This lowers the contrast making it potentially tough to read.
They have done a good job on the home page by not overwhelming it with offers and the consistent visual treatment of badges really improves comprehension.
The categorization is straightforward and logical. While the left hand navigation provides some second level links on the home page it disappears when you are on a product page, which is a little jarring. In its place is an Amazon-esque, “page you made” feature.
Overall, Sears.ca has adopted many e-commerce best practices but still falls behind leaders like “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/, “Target”:http://www.target.com/ or “Future Shop.”:http://www.futureshop.ca/
h2. This Is A Good Sign
Seeing two large sites like CBC and Sears (three if we add in “bell.ca”:http://www.bell.ca/) reboot almost simultaneously is a good sign. It means that large organizations are committed to improving their online offerings and investing in the digital channel. Hopefully these sites are also adopting *a release early release often strategy* that will see incremental improvements to their sites on faster timetables than the several years we had to wait for these relaunches.