Two winters ago, we unveiled a new design for GigaOM — today, we are launching another one. Whereas before, our focus was on design, this time around we’re aiming to bring you a unique user experience.
The biggest change at our company in the intervening two years, of course, has been in the growth of our network, which now totals seven blogs: In addition to this site, we also have TheAppleBlog, jkOnTheRun, NewTeeVee, Earth2Tech, OStatic and WebWorkerDaily. In short, we generate a lot of content that adheres to the basic ethos of GigaOM.
While I remain a big believer in specialist niches, I feel it’s also important to surface more of the quality work being produced across these properties, such as the Car 2.0 coverage by Josie Garthwaite on Earth2Tech or Simon Mackie’s web working tips. So about six months ago, I asked our product guru, Jaime Chen, to come up with a game plan that would allow us to conduct a complete overhaul. Her mission was to:
- Better showcase new content and related articles so that we can overcome the limitations of the blog format without really moving away from it.
- Give readers an easy way to go to other GigaOM Network properties so that they can discover the work of our entire team of writers.
- Focus on super simple content consumption and discovery.
- Enable us to be more social.
- When it comes to actual blogging, take us back to our roots.
Jaime, instead of taking my word for it, went out and talked to a whole lot of our users — nearly 1,000 of you shared your feedback and insights with us. And you were not shy about your dislikes. As it turned out, most of what you wanted was already on my wish list. So we got ahold of our old friend Ryan Freitas and the ace design team of Shane Pearlman and Peter Chester to turn what we learned into a unique experience. They quietly toiled away for months and now, here you have it: The first step in the network-wide overhaul.
What we’ve tried to do is strike a fine balance between what is a blog and what would be an online magazine. We have done this by adding a Featured Posts block at the top of the home page, while toward the bottom we’ve added topic pages and special reports. The rest maintains the typical blog format, but with a focus on extreme discoverability — the most-requested feature amongst our readers.
To that end, many of you asked for a list of three bullet points that summarize the highlights of longer posts. You got it. A list of related posts was another common request, so we’ve implemented that as well. And for those of you that wanted the GigaOM Team to point to great blog posts we might have read across the web and found useful, we’re rolling out that feature later this week. It’s pretty simple — we don’t have a monopoly on ideas, and since our business is based on your attention, it’s our job to make sure that your attention is being put to good use. And that means helping you save time and finding you stuff that you might find useful.
A note about typography: I wanted us to make reading an easy experience, so I opted for white spaces, bigger fonts and some elements that you would typically see in a traditional print publication. I’ve been reading the test site on an older, smaller screen (1024 x 768 ThinkPad) and my eyes don’t hurt — yet. In addition, some of the typographic stylings come to our blog courtesy of font technologies from San Francisco-based startup Typekit. We’re using the FF Clifford font, which is specially licensed through FontFont and being served using the TypeKit technology (Disclosure: Typekit and Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, are backed by True Ventures, investors in GigaOM and where I am a venture partner).
In the end, I want us to be closer to my grand vision of what I see as the future of blogging — more visual, multimodal, interactive, real time and social. We’re not there just yet, but we will be in a few months. Today you can share our stories on Twitter and Facebook; you can also connect via Facebook Connect and leave comments on the site. It might come as a surprise, but this entire operation (including a fairly advanced publishing system) was built on top of WordPress.com, the on-demand blogging service based on the open-source software, WordPress. Without going into the dirty details, WordPress Jedi Mark Jaquith, our in-house coding champ Chancey Mathews and our dev team of Kelsey Damas, Nick Ohrn, Dan Cameron and Matt Wiebe and designers Reid Peifer and Brandon Jones – many of them spread across different time zones and geographies — helped us put together the whole back end for the new site (and our blog network).
Now all this design and user experience is only as good as what we are supposed to do: create content you actually want to read. On that front, too, we have some good news. Liz Gannes, who till recently was the editor of NewTeeVee, has joined the GigaOM team as senior writer, where she will closely follow consumer web technologies and startups. She will be editor-at-large for NewTeeVee, where she will be contributing her insights into the world of online video as well. Liz is going to be joining me and Stacey Higginbotham, who has also been made a senior writer for GigaOM.
Given her work ethic and deep insights, Stacey’s promotion is well deserved. She will continue to track broadband (including policy), the FCC and cloud computing. So there you have it: the GigaOM troika. We are going to be focusing on all the things we love, with a renewed emphasis on innovation. Thankfully we have our editor in chief, Sebastian Rupley, giving us his perspective on technology all the time — his experience brings a much-needed realism to the go-go nature of Silicon Valley.