In a recent Publisher's Auxiliary article, the Sonoma Index-Tribune's (Sonoma, Calif.) website was featured by design columnist Ed Henninger.

The site (www.sonomanews.com) was a first-place winner in the non-daily division for the National Newspaper Association's 2009 Better Newspaper Contest. The "judge's comments for the Index-Tribune: Cleanest and simplest. Focus on news but also on what people might want-shop, share, do, etc." Below are some of the highlights from the article.

Background/Color Scheme

The Index-Tribune's site features a white background, which makes it easy to read, according to Henninger. The judges felt the site looked very clean. Sonoma uses different colors for various sections, but it only applies to the front page of the site and not the various section pages.

Advertising

Advertising is placed in different positions on the home page of the Index-Tribune's site. "An advantage to this approach is that the ads aren't cluttered in one mish-mosh in only one area." The advertising on the home page is kept to a minimum when compared to other sites, but all the ads are clean cut and very attention-getting. "Sonoma's ads benefit from much better design. There's a sophistication to the advertising here that helps the overall feel of the site."

Typography

The typography on the Index-Tribune is good, according to Henninger. The site mostly displays Verdana, "a typeface I find particularly appealing for Web use because it's very readable. Sonoma pulls another sans serif into the mix" as well.

Photos

The Index-Tribune site features a slideshow on the home page with seven images in the rotation. All images are from different sections and link to the full article that relates to the image.

Henninger also compliments the Index-Tribune site for the ability to view the entire home page without having to scroll down to view more sections.

Scrolling down is not a huge inconvenience for readers, yet it helps provide readers with that overall clean look.

View Henninger's full article, "Want a better website design? Check examples" on page nine of the Jan. 2010 edition at http://auxiliary.pressmart.com/AX/AX/2010/01/01/index.shtml.

(Becky Rehn is the marketing specialist at TownNews.com. She may be reached at brehn@townnews.com.)