MARCO ISLAND — A local news source is making waves — with a new beach look to its Web site, that is. The Marco Eagle’s online presence, marconews.com, is to be relaunched Wednesday with the most changes to its look and newest options for users since its last overhaul in December 2007, said multimedia editor Vonna Keomanyvong.
Changes are anticipated Wednesday afternoon. The most notable of which is the beach scene in the background of what will be white text on black to make the content “pop off the screen” Web developers said.
“It’s a sleeker design,” said Keomanyvong.
The main changes will be visual.
“The new design is cleaner and should be easier to read with noticeably larger fonts,” said Stephan Schonberg, director of online services for Naples Media Group, which includes the Marco Eagle, Naples Daily News and other affiliated Southwest Florida publications-- several of which are also launching new Web sites Wednesday.
Personalize your news
Besides the obvious changes in appearance, readers will also be able to personalize their news.
Web users will have the option to turn off the comments posted at the bottom of news stories. Anonymous comments about stories are among the features most loved by some and most hated by others on the site and the new individualized option will allow people to turn off the negativity or turn up the interaction, which ever they prefer.
Readers will also be able to choose their preferred font size, a feature Keomanyvong said may be very useful to readers in the area.
Another new feature is the ability to prioritize the placement of the sections most important to individual readers. If you like sports more than breaking news, you can move sports to the top, Schonberg added.
Web users will have the option to easily rearrange, display and lock-in categories of news on the site’s home page according to their personal preferences.
Other new features:
-In addition to most commented and most e-mailed, the home page list will now also feature the recent stories most viewed by readers.
-Readers can click “Reply to this post” to respond directly to a particular comment, which automatically will be repeated in their new post beneath a story.
-A new “Share” tool will allow readers to easily link items from marconews.com directly to their Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Digg pages.
-Current information from the local weather forecast and events calendar will appear on every story page.
Why so many changes?
E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the Marco Eagle and more than a dozen other newspapers across the country, is launching the redesign to bring a more cohesive online presence to its newspapers. More than two years of online data monitoring readers’ behavioral patterns and preferences was used in considering improvements to site usability and functionality, Keomanyvong said.
Primarily, the cleaner presentation is designed to make it easier for readers to scan the site to find what they want, designers said.
Scripps papers that have launched similar redesigns include the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, courierpress.com; the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel, knoxnews.com; and the Record Searchlight, redding.com in Redding Calif.
On the same day of the marconews.com relaunch, the Collier Citizen, Bonita Daily News, Bonita Banner and Naples Daily News will also launch their new Web sites.
Tim Aten, managing editor for naplesnews.com and marconews.com, said the elements make the sites easier to navigate and modify.
Despite big changes on the Web sites, there are no plans to charge in the near future for what people are now receiving for free, publisher Chris Doyle said.
The main goal is to increase the sites’ functionality and open the sites up for readers, he added.
The Marco Eagle is encouraging users to explore the new site and offer feedback through comments on the story or e-mail email@example.com.
Doyle said he hopes that with the redesign users “are not going to feel as though they’ve lost anything but that the things they really like are easier to see or get to.”
That’s precisely what readers said they wanted while discussing ways to improve the Marco Eagle at a focus group held at the Marco news office Monday morning with newspaper officials, readers and advertisers.
Reader Jose Granda, a resident who serves on several city boards and in numerous Island civic organizations, said he found the Web site challenging to use.
“Going on line is a very frustrating thing when it comes to the Eagle,” Granda said prior to the new Web site launch Monday.
Residents Craig Woodward and Nick Campo agreed with Granda and encouraged changes to make the site more user-friendly by making news stories and related content easier to find.
Plans for the Web site redesigns come on the heels of a June unveiling of the new $95 million, 186,000-square-foot building on Immokalee Road in North Naples.
The Marco Eagle expects to start printing on the new press in August. With the new press will come higher-quality print and a taller, leaner paper.
Check the Friday edition of the Marco Eagle and marconews.com for more changes planned for the Eagle. Share your ideas on what you’d like to see in your community newspaper-- whether online or in print by commenting below or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Check back for polls, surveys and images of several proposed changes to your local news.