The bigger the home page is, the bigger the overall site seems to be. That is often the case with websites of any kind, and it certainly does apply to online.wsj.com.
This is a website that has plenty to offer and if you are at all interested in financial news then it is well worth giving this one a second look. It is very comprehensive in its approach and it comes from the same people who bring you the Wall Street Journal, so it has a great pedigree and for that reason alone it is worthy of a proper evaluation.
It’s easy at first to think that it only deals with American news, but in actual fact that is not the case and upon closer inspection it is clear that you can check out the sites which are angled at different regions of the world. All you need to do is look at the very top bar of the home page where it says The Wall Street Journal, and read along that line until you reach the word ‘more’. Hovering your mouse over this word brings up six options, including the chance to visit the home pages which are relevant to Europe, China and Asia. It is quite well tucked away, but worth a look if you are interested in the news from other areas of the world.
But the website has a lot to offer on the whole, and exploring the different sections reveals a lot of useful information which makes this site one to add to your favorites.
Starting with the home page
This page is very well balanced in design and features calm blue accents that work very well in both the menu sections and the headlines themselves. A wide variety of information is thrown at you the minute you arrive on the home page, but that doesn’t mean it is at all overwhelming – quite the opposite in fact.
The menu bar at the top of the page features the various main sections written almost entirely in black (with the exception of the news section, which appears in red), making them stand out from everything else on the page. This is a good reminder of what is there for you to look at.
Some of the content on the page is labeled as being for subscribers only, but there is a lot that you can access without paying a fee, and indeed many average users will not feel the need to pay for what they want. There is plenty of in depth content available so unless you have a particular need or desire to subscribe it is not necessary to do so to get a lot out of this website.
The main menu is listed in an orderly fashion down the left hand side of the page, and the main section of each bit appears in blue. When you click on that the sub-sections in that particular part of the website will then be listed underneath it on the next page. If you hover over any main section the sub-sections will also appear next to it and you can go straight into the appropriate part without any hassle.
One of the main sections on the home page that will catch your eye is the part known as Today’s Highlights. This part gives you a brief snapshot of the markets as they stand, plus a scrolling view of some of the current stories that are worth reading about. These could be on any type of subject and don’t necessarily relate to the money markets, but it’s still worth a look.
You will also see a link to Markets Data and Tools, which takes you in to a huge section of data which will no doubt be of interest to you if you are here primarily for financial reasons. We will take a more in depth look at this section in the next part of this review.
There are also adverts on this home page, but although there are a lot of them you will soon see that they are unobtrusive and fit in well with the overall look of the site. It is quite impressive that a page which has so many ads on it manages not to annoy the visitor with them. The style and small size of them ensure that they don’t get in the way of the main reason for this home page – and that is to lead the visitor into the various parts of the site, according to what they most want to see and read about.
What sections are there to explore?
As promised, let’s look at the Markets Data and Tools section first. The main page of this particular section splits everything into different areas such as currencies and international markets, so you can see exactly where you need to go with no problems at all.
Hovering your mouse over any of these sections brings up a box that reveals what else there is to find in that part of the website, going into each area in a lot more detail. The currencies page gives you a good idea of what to expect in each of these areas, so we’ll take a look at this one to see what we can discover.
The first thing that greets you is a number of charts and tables, revealing the cross rates that are currently in operation and also the last bid rate applicable to each currency in the table. Red indicates a falling amount and green indicates a rising one, giving you the ability to take a quick look and still see how things are going.
A brief box gives you information on the latest currency related news story, which often concentrates on the best known and most influential currencies such as the US dollar and the Euro. But any breaking news story which is related to this area can be featured here. A simple click allows you to see this in more detail.
If you click on the hourly snapshots link in the currency data box you will be taken into another page which offers a look at how various currency exchange rates are currently performing. There is a column here which offers percentage changes in either green or red, according to whether they have gone up or down.
Other areas of interest on the website as a whole are the technology section – which often features financially related stories – and the section title ‘Today’s Newspaper’. This is of particular interest as it gives you a brief overview of what to expect in the day’s paper according to which area of the world you are in. Each subject area gives you a handful of stories and a paragraph of information on each, and then you can click on the titles to go in and read that individual story in depth. You will notice however that the story will peter out part way through; this is due to the fact that you can only access the whole site (and indeed the newspaper articles) by registering and paying to be a full subscriber to the services offered.
If you have your wits about you, you will also notice a small link to a different but related website at the very top of the page. This is called Marketwatch.com and is run by the same people, although the emphasis here is very much on how the US markets are doing. It doesn’t have quite the same global reach as the online.wsj.com website does, but it is still worth a look nonetheless, as it provides you with a lot of useful information on American stocks, monetary and financial news if that is what you want to read more about.
There is also a useful section about small business concerns on online.wsj.com, which often features financially motivated stories and articles. In short, it is worth checking through many areas of the site in order to find the financial information you are seeking, no matter what kind of area it might be in.
How user friendly is the website?
The first place to go if you need any help at all is the bottom of the page. You will see that there is a link which enables visitors viewing the site from a mobile phone to get more information on how to make their mobile experience even better and more user friendly than it might be at the moment, and you can also take a tour of the website as a whole if you click on that particular link.
Clicking on the help button brings up a separate web page which lists the main areas that you may need assistance with, and the site map is available to view under the related information section. Clicking on this link takes you back into the main site and shows you the site map in full. Not surprisingly for such a big site the site map is huge, but it does cover everything and it is remarkably easy to navigate.
The main sections are indicated with a gray bar and the name of that section in black, and the sub-sections are listed in blue clickable type, making it supremely easy to get to where you want to go.
You will also find a search feature at the top of every page of the website, which makes online.wsj.com a very easy and user friendly site to use. It makes light work of the job at hand and given the sheer size and scope of the site it never becomes unwieldy or too cumbersome to get to grips with.
In the end it is clear that the people behind this site do an outstanding job of ensuring it is as user friendly as it can possibly be. They also make sure that a good deal of the information on it is available for non-subscribers to take advantage of, while at the same time subscribers who have paid their dues won’t feel that they aren’t getting anything for their money, as there are plenty of extras for them as well.
So in answer to the question posed in this section, the answer would have to be a resounding ‘very’.
What is the single best feature?
We are going to choose the RSS feeds on this occasion, for several reasons. Firstly there are plenty of them, illustrating that the Wall Street Journal website knows that not everyone is willing to sit down and read the bits they want to read at their computer all the time. RSS feeds give you more freedom than you need to be able to get the information you want, when you want it.
Secondly the RSS feeds are split into many different types. Sometimes you will glance at the list of RSS feeds available for any one site and you will find that they are quite general in their subject matter. They don’t always meet your exact needs and for that reason they are sometimes a little less than accommodating.
But that isn’t the case at online.wsj.com. This particular website has dozens and dozens of options to choose from – so many in fact that even if financial news, advice and opinion is the only subject you wish to know about, you will still find it hard to narrow down your choices to a couple that will really fit the bill.
Once you click on a particular feed you will see a small box appear, giving you the choice of which feed reader you want to use. You also get the RSS link itself if you want to copy it to another location. You’ll notice that the website has a feed reader of its own, so if you don’t already have one you might want to use theirs.
All in all this is just about the largest and most impressive set of feeds we’ve seen offered by any one site, and that is what makes this feature our best choice for the website as a whole.
Websites which have a certain number of features restricted for subscriber use only tend to run the risk of alienating some of their users – either because some of them will feel they aren’t getting anything for free, or because others feel a subscription isn’t worth the money they paid.
If any other website is thinking of appealing to both markets then they could do no better than visit online.wsj.com for advice and guidance on how to do it right. They have succeeded in getting that mix right and making everyone happy – and they are still one of the best sites around for quality content and financial news as well.