In the last year or so it has been noticeable how the TimesOnline, once something of a muddle, has upped its game.
Following last year’s in-house redesign, which, in my opinion makes it the nicest and most usable of all the UK newspaper sites, comes the opening up of a searchable online archive of every paper from 1785-1985. You can search by topic, going straight to the articles in question, or browse through papers page by page.
The archive sits in a fascinating ‘editorial wrapper’ which selects and highlights important and interesting articles from the archive, however, what impresses me most is the viewer, which is, as far as I can see, a proprietary solution with an Ajaxy front end. It is simple, slick and, most importantly, fast, suffering from none of the loading and display issues associated with more common document display software. In my opinion, this should significantly increase page impressions and dwell time.
The site still has a few usability issues, and they ask for a fairly unreasonable amount of personal information when you register (why do they need my phone number?) However, these are minor quibbles.
My guess is that it will win a lot of awards this year.