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Users can play around with new features and provide feedback, or offer suggestions for new features
When looking for new ways to improve user experience on a site, nothing beats actually asking the user. And that’s what The New York Times is doing with a new website it launched Monday. The site, beta620, will be a spot where Web users can try out new features that the New York Times is experimenting with and provide feedback.
The site will be continually updated with new projects, each of which will feature a working prototype where users can give it a whirl, a written description and updates from the project’s creator, and a comment section where users can leave feedback and opinions. Users can also propose new projects under the “Suggestions” tab, where they can describe a new feature they’d like to see.
Current projects include TimesInstant, which, as you might imagine, is like a Google Instant for the New York Times search bar: you begin typing the subject of your search and the search results will display and change as you type. Another cool project currently in development is the Longitude interactive map, which uses Google Maps to allow readers to select recent stories based on their geographic location. Or you can try out the new Community Hub project, a dashboard of social activity, such as comments, reviews, and recommendations on the New York Times website.
Users can also see recent graduates of the beta620 site, such as the Coming Up Next feature—that little blurb that pops up when you get to the end of a Times article that displays the next article in the section. Another recent beta620 graduate is the Recommendation Engine, which provides personalized content recommendations based on articles you’ve previously read on NYTimes.com (not a total game-changer, but not a bad effort).
“With beta620, we are challenging our talented staff and our community of users to publicly test out new ideas and concepts that can create a better online experience,” said Marc Frons, chief technology officer of The New York Times. “Some may end up as products on NYTimes.com and others may not; regardless of the outcome of specific projects, we see tremendous value in sharing our innovative thinking and inviting users into the process.”
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