Writing in The Oz today, Mark Scott makes the claim that "The ABC has no rival in rural, regional and local news gathering and with fast broadband coming to the bush, the ABC will be the 'town square' where events, issues and community information is posted and debated."
I wouldn't argue about the breadth of regional news gathering resources the ABC has, but I would definitely dispute that this makes the ABC Online the 'Town Square' for localities across regional Australia.
ABC Local is 60 new local web sites delivering - according to Scott - "not just local news, weather and sport but also video and audio, reflecting local events and culture and opportunities for audiences to contribute".
In theory that's fine. In practice ABC Local is a mess.
The layout of the opening page is all over the place. From a useability perspective it's nearly impossible to tell how to navigate to any region. There is a map, but it's hard to read. Once you do find your way to a regional location there's no apparent way to navigate back again.
Getting the UI right, as well as the data relationships, is critical to developing the community aspect successfully. We spent a lot of time doing that for Finda and while it's not finished yet I think we're on the right track.
ABC Local has a bit more work to do there.