The much anticipated re-design of wsj.com launched today (see homepage below). Ive heard quite a bit of complaining so far that they have continued to restrict access to much of their content. However, I havent heard much praise for some of the things they got right! Here are my thoughts:

First and foremost, the site is a significant improvement on a purely visual level. Re-designing a news site is a massive undertaking that requires information architecture expertise that often goes unacknowledged- especially if its done successfully. This site, despite being very busy and dense, is still easy to scan through and quickly digest a large amount of material. They use typography in a way that makes it easy for any reader to quickly get a sense of priority among the stories. (For all the restricted access complainers, they also use a nifty little key icon to indicate content available to subscribers only.) I was surprised to see that their homepage video widget sits below a large advertisement on the right side. This means that their video content on the homepage will likely be below the fold for most business laptop users. Im sure they thought through this choice… that must be a pretty expensive ad slot.

I also love the way they promote section-specific top stories content on the article detail pages (see screenshot above). There is a simple ribbon across the top, which can be scrolled through using the arrow icons on the right. It scrolls very smoothly, and shows about three items in full at any given time. My guess is that this feature will be heavily used.

On the section landing pages (see screenshot below), they have some nice interface details, like the highlights widget on the top right, which allows you to scroll through featured stories, too.

Finally, they clearly care about art direction and interactive. I noticed this interactive graphic (see below) on an article about AIG and Lehman. Nice job!