SITE REVIEW: Pathfinder's redesign

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Time Inc.'s Pathfinder unveiled its latest redesign on Monday, offering up a look and feel modeled on the "channel" approach. The site, billed as being twice as fast to download, did perform snappily. Gone are the bandwidth-heavy graphics for various Pathfinder offerings, replaced by small buttons and rotating promotional windows.

A feature called "Shuffle the deck," when clicked, changes what portions of Pathfinder get billing as clickable icons. It seems gimmicky, but it's also one way to solve the perpetual problem of giving all of Time Warner's properties equal standing.

One big advance: The home page now fits on one screen. No need to scroll down to see something. Headlines for top stories remain a key feature.

SiteSeeker, Pathfinder's new search engine, leaves much to be desired, however. Clicking on the icon leads to a list of hypertext search categories; there's no way to conduct an immediate search without first narrowing it to one of the categories and waiting for the refined list to download. The engine also breaks up into several frames, which are frequently difficult to read. Site reviews are provided by McKinley Group. It's unclear what the advantage is to having such a search engine as part of Pathfinder.

Ad banners remain a staple of the site, loading at the top or bottom of the page. Ad prices remain the same at $38,000 per quarter.

Overall, the design does seem cleaner. With as much content as Pathfinder has, the challenge will always be to make it seem graceful instead of clumsy. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

For an insider's take on the Pathfinder redesign, check out the Netly News.

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