The Web is full of sites that are cumbersome to navigate, take forever to download, and, to top it all off, don’t have the information you need.
The Spokesman-Review is currently designing a community guide on the Web, a one-stop place with news, community information and business directory.
The new site, located at www.spokane.net, will be a database-driven site designed to be user friendly, easy to navigate and not bogged down by graphics, said Web site business manager Tony Courtwright. The Spokesman’s current site, Virtually Northwest, will be revamped but will remain a part of spokane.net, Courtwright said.
The launch date is likely a few months away, he added. Information currently on Virtually Northwest, such as TV listings, classifieds and yellow pages, will be redone and transferred to the new site, which is being constructed with assistance from InterLink Services and Klundt and Hosmer Design Associates.
Each business in the Spokane area will receive a free listing in the electronic yellow pages, which will include name, address and phone number. Businesses can buy banner ads and, for a fee, include a link to their home page.
Users will be able to get a map and directions from their home to a chosen business. Eventually people will be able to send a fax to a restaurant to make a reservation or place an order and receive confirmation via e-mail, said Courtwright.
The archives available online will also expand. The Spokesman-Review will include all articles published in the last three years.
Users also will be able to search the archives of nearly 30 other newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury News, the Detroit Free Press and the Philadelphia Daily News. Searches will produce a list of headlines and the first paragraph of each story. Users will be able to view the full stories for $1 each using an online library card, says Courtwright.
Site designers also hope to include expanded auto and real estate listings, including complete inventories of local auto dealers, Courtwright said.
Users also will be able to look for jobs in other markets.
Spokane.net also will let people personalize and customize the page to their liking. People will be able to choose what graphics, if any, they want to appear on the page, and select what specific information to download, such as limiting sports stories by area or topic.
The site will also include “push” technology, which delivers information to your computer automatically. For example, Courtwright said, users will be able to have all the North Idaho stories delivered via e-mail every day, or any other information they choose.
The Spokesman-Review is trying to build a sense of community by undertaking the project, says Scott Sines, the newspaper’s managing editor of opinion and presentation. “We have so much more capacity to do things,” said Sines. “The Web is pretty limitless as far as what you can publish.”
Community groups and organizations will be able to self-publish calendars of upcoming events and newsletters on the site, something not done in the newspaper because of space limitations, Sines said.
“The role of the newspaper is to build a strong community,” Sines said, and it can now use the Web as a platform.