Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

January 24, 2009 | 59 comments
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We’ve spiffed up our design a little bit.  Have a look around and let us know what you like and what you don’t.

We may not do anything about your comments; but then again, we might, and the venting should be good for you regardless.

59 Responses to Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

  1. Ariel on January 24, 2009 at 2:50 am

    I’m running Firefox 3.0.5 and I have to scroll to the right to see the edge of “notes from all over.”

    I don’t see the point of having a calendar on the page. I can always click on my computer clock and pull up my own calendar.

    The far right column is crowded/long, I’d move Notes from All Over to the left.

    I really like the bars at the top of the page.

  2. S.P. Bailey on January 24, 2009 at 3:25 am

    “Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints. We cover a wide range of topics — from arts, history, and current events to economics, philosophy, and law” = New Coke

    “Quite possibly the most , yet , onymous Mormon group blog in history” = Coke Classic

  3. Steve Evans on January 24, 2009 at 3:30 am

    SP nails it.

    The new site is clearly more functional, but less friendly and (if possible) uglier. It’s got too many functions to be functional, in fact. Just looking at your front page I can see more than a half-dozen ways for people to find posts, whether categories (top), categories (side), calendar, Features, etc. — that’s just way too much for a blog. Heck that’s too much for Slate.

    But the format change also shows a shift in approach towards segmentation and classification, which may or may not be a good thing. The new tagline speaks volumes.

  4. d33p on January 24, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Nice evolutionary changes. For my tastes the main navigation bar is a little too strong. I’d use the onhover lighter brown instead as the main colour, and go with the darker brown onhover.

  5. Tatiana on January 24, 2009 at 6:14 am

    It doesn’t fit on my screen, possibly because I have the font size larger (using ctrl +) to make it restful for my eyes to read. I may be the only one who has this problem, in other words, but scrolling left to right all the time is not very fun.

  6. Tim on January 24, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I also don’t like the fact that I have to scroll to the right to read the Notes from all over.

  7. Ronan on January 24, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I’m glad you stuck with brown.

  8. Nitsav on January 24, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Very “busy” design. It also doesn’t fit my screen using all the defaults in Firefox. I think I prefer the older design, though I’m usually a fan of increased functionality.

  9. Frank McIntyre on January 24, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for the comments. On default settings, the width of the page is 1050 pixels. That has actually changed a little as we’ve fiddled with it. Those who are having to scroll are probably using monitors with a width resolution of 1024 or have bumped up the size. We’ll trim it back to about 990-1000 pixels and all should be well for the 1024 monitors. That is easy to do, except for the banner, so it might take a while.

    “Quite possibly the most , yet , onymous Mormon group blog in history” = Coke Classic”

    The old tagline was awesome — for frequent visitors who knew what it was doing. Unfortunately more casual visitors didn’t always figure it out and just got confused. I think we once had a media outlet think the phrase they saw was _the_ tagline. We may actually bring it back, but we’ll see.

    Ariel: The calender is a set of links to past posts this month. But possibly that is not sufficiently obvious. I’m marginal on it.

    “I’m glad you stuck with brown.” me too.

    “I’d use the on hover lighter brown instead as the main colour, and go with the darker brown on hover.”

    that might be better. we’ll play with it a little.

  10. William Morris on January 24, 2009 at 10:55 am

    You need to trim about 100 pixels off of the side. Shove the categories into a drop down. The left nav should focus on recent comments and notes from all over. Set up note from all over to synch with a Twitter feed as well.

    Ditch the calendar. The category navigation up top should be the main focus for people wanting to browse the archive.

    The search box could use a search button and should be smaller.

    I also agree that the new blog promo says nothing and the old rotating java script should be back — especially since the topics you cover are made apparent in the top navigation (which is good — although one or two elements too long).

    I think the links don’t need to be on every page anymore — dump them into a page with anchor tags that link down to the various categories and then put a link to the Links page next to user policies in the top nav.

    I’d also take a good look at your main categories and see if you really, really need them so that you can shorten the length of the top nav. At the very least ditch the and and just go with News/Politics and maybe switch cornucopia to misc. — not as fun of a word, but it gets you down to a better width.

    You’ll also need to ditch 2 images on each side of the header image. But that’s fine — it’s two thin/narrow and wide anyway.

    Good choice to keep the brown — it’s part of your brand.

    If you really, really feel the need to have an archives by date, put that also into a page and add an Archives page to the top nav too.

    The alt text that pops up from the second top nav items is a great help. I do think that you could ditch the Admin category — if someone really, really cares then they can do a search or hit up the Archives page or do the drop down box of all categories.

    I’d also recommend a Share This or other share service/icons be added to the template, esp. considering the traffic you get.

    Finally: You make it way too hard to find the RSS feed. I suggest that just below the onymous box you put links to the RSS feed, comments feed and a receive T&S posts by e-mail link (which can easily be set up via Feedburner or other services — see AMV for details).

  11. Adam Greenwood on January 24, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Thanks for the great suggestions, all.

  12. William Morris on January 24, 2009 at 11:27 am

    At my normal consulting rate of $80 an hour for site architecture consulting, that’s $20 you guys owe me.

    By the way: good choice of underlying theme. I promise not to tell anybody that it’s called “Lunatic Fringe.”

  13. Ardis Parshall on January 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I like your choice of “Cornucopia” as a classification over the more obvious “miscellaneous,” although the sheer number of posts stashed there makes it a less than useful classification. I’m guessing that’s where you have filed history posts?

    Suggest moving the visitor counter way, way up in the sidebar. It’s fun for visitors to watch, much more so than endless lists of blog links, and especially more so than the Archives list. (Do people really remember well enough that a post appeared in July 2008 or November 2007 to find the Archives list at all useful?)

    My first impression was that I really didn’t like having the main post column reduced to half the screen, although in the time it has taken me to type this I have realized that it’s a very comfortable reading width. Aesthetically, though, the page is very badly out of balance, like a print newspaper page where the news is squeezed into whatever space is left over after all the ads have been prominently placed. I find myself trying to read the post without seeing the overwhelming weight of the sidebars, then feeling the physical symptoms of irritation that I can’t block it out of view.

  14. Dan on January 24, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Looks great to me.

  15. danithew on January 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I’m just glad to see any change after such a long time.

    I agree the calendar isn’t needed.

    Is a change in color scheme off the table? It might be nice to see some variety. I thought BCC: did a nice thing with creating a means to change color/scheme and header image on a seasonal basis.

    On another note, content-wise, I’ve been enjoying reading T&S again.

  16. Frank McIntyre on January 24, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Ardis,

    I regret to inform you that for very long stretches the categories at T&S were wildly underused. Thus many posts in Corn. belong elsewhere. I’d be delighted to have you go back and re-categorize your posts into Mormon Thought, or Life or liberal arts, as you saw fit. If your permissions don’t allow that, send me an email and I’ll fix it.

    And thanks, again, everyone, for taking the time to comment on what you like and don’t. Very little is “off the table” in terms of changes, other than we’re a group blog that talks about Mormon stuff.

  17. William Morris on January 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    The problem with BCC’s approach is that it’s not strong branding — of course, these are just blogs so one could argue whether that’s needed or not. But I have a hard time picturing BCC even though it’s a very clean, lovely, nicely readable, well-designed blog.

  18. Mark B. on January 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    This all brings to mind the Mad Magazine cartoon from the good old days, back when all the Standard Oil gas stations were being combined into Exxon. Mad had a cartoon showing the White House, with a neon sign saying “NIXXON”. Beneath was the caption: “But it’s the same old gas.”

    But I suppose it’s “all right.” Or maybe even “alright” for people who write that way.

  19. sister blah 2 on January 24, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Unfortunately more casual visitors didn’t always figure it out and just got confused. I think we once had a media outlet think the phrase they saw was _the_ tagline. We may actually bring it back, but we’ll see.

    That’s precisely what was so awesome about it! I got a great laugh out of that media flub.

  20. Geoff B on January 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I like it. It looks more like M* now (except with a lot more traffic). :)

  21. JacobF on January 24, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I mostly like it, but I’d like to see the polygamists-in-prison photo (and the Coke Classic tagline) back!

  22. Jeremiah J. on January 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    “Very little is “off the table” in terms of changes, other than we’re a group blog that talks about Mormon stuff.”

    So you’re not just talking about design changes?

  23. Frank McIntyre on January 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    “like M* (except with a lot more traffic)”

    maybe this should be our new tagline.

    Jeremiah,

    This week we’re mostly dealing with design changes, but we’re always interested in ideas. You can email me at my last name at byu.

    Sister blah 2,

    There is some tension between making the place work for the 20% or so of visitors who come regularly compared to the 80% casual types. Obviously, the comments we get here will be drawn largely from only one of those groups.

  24. Frank McIntyre on January 24, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    ” but I’d like to see the polygamists-in-prison photo”

    Me too! But what do I cut? William Morris tells me I’m already two over and I believe him. maybe we could do another row way down at the bottom. I’m not quite sure how I could make pictures look good on the sidebar.

    What would be awesome (but probably not user friendly) is if each was a link to a category, and we could just use them for a menu. unfortunately there would be no text to identify them (except if we rig it up on mouseovers).

  25. jeans on January 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I guess it’s getting me thinking about how on earth Mormon Life, Thought and Arts are not synonyms for each other. But I get that it’s up to the post-er to put a label on his/her thoughts.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on January 24, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    The site looks more organized to me now. Agree that there’re probably more things in that sidebar than needed, but it’s mostly clear what the groupings are. I have no idea what “abbreviated” means as a category, though.

    FWIW, I wouldn’t mind having Mormon Momma listed somewhere in the blogroll. We’re no T&S, but we’ve been around since 01.01.2003 and garner upwards of 400k hits per year these days. Not too shabby.

  27. William Morris on January 24, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Frank:

    Create a 3-4 different header images and rotate them from time to time. One could also create a javascript that rotates them every time the page refreshes, but I’ve never been real keen on that idea. A bit to gimmicky for my taste.

  28. Ardis Parshall on January 24, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    There’s an awkwardness with the names in the “Recent Comments” list: clicking on a commenter’s name in the list takes you not to that comment on T&S but to whatever URL the commenter left. That’s awkward not just because it’s different from every other blog I’ve ever visited, but also because it means the only way to follow a discussion is to click on the post link and scroll past the post and all the comments you’ve already read. At T&S that can be many screens.

    Frank, I don’t think the majority of my old posts would fit anywhere on your current menu except under Cornucopia (so ingloriously abbreviated by you as “Corn”!). Why not a History heading? I’m not the only one who has written history for T&S, and surely there are more history posts than Arts or Science.

  29. Adam Greenwood on January 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Plus not having a URL attached to the commenter’s name in the recent commenter column makes the column easier to read. Yeah. We’ll flog the gnomes until they fix it.

  30. Ray on January 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I like it overall. My only suggestion:

    Add my blog to one of your lists. *grin*

  31. cchrissyy on January 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

    “My first impression was that I really didn’t like having the main post column reduced to half the screen, … Aesthetically, though, the page is very badly out of balance, like a print newspaper page where the news is squeezed into whatever space is left over after all the ads have been prominently placed. I find myself trying to read the post without seeing the overwhelming weight of the sidebars, then feeling the physical symptoms of irritation that I can’t block it out of view.”

    My thoughts exactly.
    Also, I agree that i fyou do wnat the archeives available and sorted by month, that can be off the main page template. I have a wordpres spluging for that on ym store’s blog.

    see a post here and right in plain sight in the RSS button and a link called “post archives”. Click it and then you can see the list of every month and year and a click expands to show the post titles. but there is no reason that every page on your site should give up space for a long list of months and years and no real content.

  32. cchrissyy on January 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

    “My first impression was that I really didn’t like having the main post column reduced to half the screen, … Aesthetically, though, the page is very badly out of balance, like a print newspaper page where the news is squeezed into whatever space is left over after all the ads have been prominently placed. I find myself trying to read the post without seeing the overwhelming weight of the sidebars, then feeling the physical symptoms of irritation that I can’t block it out of view.”

    My thoughts exactly.
    Also, I agree that if you do want the archives available and sorted by month, that can be off the main page template. I have a wordpress plugin for that on my store’s blog.

    see a post here and right in plain sight in the RSS button and a link called “post archives”. Click it and then you can see the list of every month and year and a click expands to show the post titles. but there is no reason that every page on your site should give up space for a long list of months and years and no real content.

  33. Frank McIntyre on January 25, 2009 at 12:44 am

    cchrissy, very nice. what plugin are you using?

  34. Jeremy on January 25, 2009 at 1:08 am

    I think having two columns on the right with the same background color makes it a little busy over there. I’d prefer one of the columns on the left or something to set them visually apart. They catch the eye too much like two columns of a newspaper.

    Also, the font on the hits counter seems very incongruous to me.

    I’m not wild about having two rows of menu items across the top, and concur with those suggesting a category drop-down menu.

    Finally: more animated GIFs, please.

  35. Frank McIntyre on January 25, 2009 at 2:15 am

    I’ve got a backflipping penguin GIF here somewhere…

    Ardis, I think our plan was to put history in Mormon Thought. I don’t think we’re the first people to have trouble categorizing history, but that was our stab at it. We need to redo the alt titles that jump up to make that more apparent.

  36. mlu on January 25, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Well, it’s not zen.

    Maybe it’s Mormon. Beehivish.

    I like the header. I really like the font and whiteness and layout of the main content.

    The busyness and the scrunched to the left feel of the main content stresses me, makes me want to take off my shoes or something.

    I would put that long list of links on its own page with a link to it from the header, put “notes from all over” back under “recent posts,” and get it down to 2 columns.

    But content is king. You guys are okay.

  37. Ardis Parshall on January 25, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Improvements practically by the hour! I think I like the current display of recent comments — but what time zone are you set to? That whole [vastly shortened] column is much more readable now.

    Remember to add Nate’s new blog to your Personal Blogs list.

  38. Ardis Parshall on January 25, 2009 at 1:47 am

    That time zone thing is weird — my comment at 35 should have appeared as 38. (Those numbers are apt to be meaningless once I click “submit” for this one.)

  39. Martin on January 25, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Looks and works great. Readability has been improved..

  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on January 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Ouch, just realized that the new format excommunicates me from the list of blogs.

  41. Frank McIntyre on January 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Too all, I made some more changes last night. We’ll still have a blogroll, we’re just not sure where or how. But if you want to be listed, feel free to mention it here, with the link and title.

  42. Researcher on January 25, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Do you also take suggestions on what to drop?

    Sites that don’t seem to be posting anymore or don’t come up: A Bird’s Eye View. Blognitive Dissonance didn’t come up for me. Celibate in the City looks defunct. LDS Liberation Front isn’t coming up. Otterson hasn’t posted since October. Mormons and Catholics stopped a couple of years ago. Popcorn Popping has stopped. Right Side Redux stopped a year ago. Spinozist isn’t posting. Tales from the Crib stopped posting a couple of months ago (forever, they said). The Iron Rod isn’t posting.

    Why is that “Sarah lies” link there? Seems like a Notes From All Over Item.

    Links that need to be updated to current locations: Juvenile Instructor. Dave’s Mormon Inquiry. Mormon Metaphysics.

    You may want to add Feast Upon the Word. I don’t read it but I know others do, and they post frequently and with very high quality.

    We all know that Mormon Wasp isn’t posting (forgive me for the pause while I shed a tear or two), but that may be worth keeping for past content. Splendid Sun could be treated in the same fashion (I have it on my blog link list for the very occasional post).

    Where’s the link to MA? And shouldn’t “Mormon Blogs” be moved to a section for aggregators?

    Just a hint: the simpler it is, the easier it is to keep updated and pertinent, particularly if the person who is in charge loses interest or has a change in time commitments.

  43. Peter R. on January 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    The new design is brutal on smaller screen resolutions due to the double sidebar. I strongly prefer a singe sidebar. I like the links at the top, but the new sidebars really clutter up the page.

  44. MikeInWeHo on January 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I wish the welcome section said something like “….ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints and their friends.”

  45. Ronan on January 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Where’s the link to MA?

    This won’t end well.

    ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.

    So “unfaithful” LDS (meaning what?) will find nothing of interest here. Interesting. Don’t you mean “ideas of Mormon interest from a faithful LDS perspective”?

  46. Frank McIntyre on January 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    “….ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints and their friends.”

    you’re still welcome, Mike :).

    “So “unfaithful” LDS (meaning what?) will find nothing of interest here. ”

    c’mon Ronan, do the Venn diagram. The ideas may or may not be of interest to non-faithful people or non-LDS people. We’ve said nothing about that.

    In any case, the blurb is not the final word. I’m still not sure we even want the box as it drives the sidebars down. We’re still figuring it out, so your comments are welcome.

    As for the other aggregator links, we’ll get to them, they just don’t import as easily as many of the other features. Same for the RSS feeds, I suppose.

  47. cchrissyy on January 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    my blog’s archive plugin is

    SRG Clean Archives 4.1

    This plugin is designed to display your archive listings in a clean, uniform, single-query fashion that’s Search Engine friendly on a dedicated page or in your sidebar. By Geek With Laptop.
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/

  48. Alison Moore Smith on January 25, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    c’mon Ronan, do the Venn diagram.

    I vote that best comeback of the year. OK, I come from a math geek background, but still.

  49. Ray on January 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    #41 – Frank, the title is “Things of My Soul”. The url is: (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/).

    Thanks.

  50. Adam Greenwood on January 26, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Frank’s taking all the flack here. Let it be known that all the good features of the new look are Frank M.’s idea. The bad features are from the rest of us. The Venn diagram here is pretty easy to draw.

  51. GuyC on January 26, 2009 at 10:26 am

    My 2 cents worth (from a software engineer)…

    1) Change is always tough, at first. So expect some resistence.

    2) Headers are good. Categorizing forums will assist those looking for something specific. But most casual readers will tend to stay in one area and miss many other great threads!

    3) Don’t like the 60/40 split. For the threads with lots of comments, once you get past the end of “Recent Comments” and “Notes From All Over”, the blank space on the right is annoying. If possible, make it so the reader can collapse the right side frame, making the left side frame full page.

    4) Would love to see some sort of Flag, or Indicator, on the threads that let’s the readers know what’s new since the last time they visited the site. This could also be applied to the Comments. It makes it so much easier (at a glance) to know what you’ve read and what you have not.

    5) Absolutely love the real-time visual of what your post will look like while you are typing it out. Great feature I haven’t seen used in many places!!!

    Last – good job overall. Love progressive thinkers!!!

  52. GuyC on January 26, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Left one thing out.

    Don’t like the Tags being listed/shown. Few readers understand them, and even fewer would ever use them. Adds to the clutter and is not a good visual aspect of the page.

  53. GuyC on January 26, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Interesting… “Recent Comments” has been moved to the left side, leaving “Notes From All Over” on the right and the threads/comments in the center. This makes it a little more readable once you get deep into the comments. A little open space to the Left and Right is easier on the eyes then a lot of open space to the right alone. … This works!

  54. Johnna on January 27, 2009 at 2:26 am

    columns on left and right? I disagree with Guy–apparently I’m surprisingly attached to T&S being a place with the sidecolumn(s) all on the right.

    I do, do, do love this blog though. And I’m a total “Notes from All Over” addict.

  55. Adam Greenwood on January 27, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Me too, Johnna. But you can’t make everyone happy.

  56. Mack on January 27, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I like it. I like it a lot. Sidebars and the left and right balance it out much better (for me, anyway). Thanks!

  57. Rob Perkins on January 27, 2009 at 11:18 am

    You know, I really like the way the recent comments section works. Overall this is a positive change in the UI, because it easily exposes more of the sites features than I thought were there last month.

  58. Stephen M (Ethesis) on January 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Too all, I made some more changes last night. We’ll still have a blogroll, we’re just not sure where or how. But if you want to be listed, feel free to mention it here, with the link and title.

    Well, I’d like my site to be back on the blogroll, thanks.

  59. Geoff J on January 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Wow. The fixed width thing is a real mistake in my opinion. The site is suddenly more painful to read.

    I recommend scrapping the new design and going back to the classic Coke design…