Soft Launch: Welcome To Our Newly Redesigned Sites

45 Comments

No, you haven’t landed on the wrong site… this is our newly relaunched and redesigned site, though as you will see as you navigate through it, this is probably a soft launch, or as they say in Silicon Valley lingo, a beta launch. This was what we tried last week, and as opposed to last time, we landed well this time.
A lot of effort has gone into it, but the biggest problem we faced was the content migration. One of the big things we learned, even though it was obvious even before, is that the blogs CMS systems suck…all of them. Interoperability is nonexistent in the blog or CMS industry… plus they are built with no thought to structured data, or if they are, they are completely optional and an average blogger would never be able to adhere to it. And oh, we have moved again from WordPress to Expression Engine, and if you are counting this is our third blog system (Movable Type being the first one).
Anyway back to the new sites… the big idea behind the site redesign is to become more contemporary, in terms of design, usability, and ad units. Also, we have three sites now and a fourth one ready to launch, and we had to make them part of an overall network, and hopefully we have achieved that with this redesign. On the backend side, as we add more journalists into the system we will see the added benefit of a platform which is more robust and scalable.
We have a lot of new features, half of which won’t be functional the first day, but we will transition into them over the next week or so. By the end of this week, I will do another post listing all the new features that we have built into the new system.
Some credits are in order: first, the excellent design and development team at Airbag Industries and the allied team: Greg Storey, Ryan Irelan, Ethan Marcotte, and Jesse Newland. Once we get finished with this (and dare you try to snatch them away for the next couple of weeks…), I would recommend them in a heartbeat for a Web design/development project. Also, big up to the EE team for their help in the platform migration.
From our side, our executive editor Staci who came into the project late but has been working nonstop for the last two weeks…and then, the rest of our team, specifically Jeff, Michael and James. After this experience, things will only go up, I promise.
Thanks everyone for being patient.
Regards
Rafat Ali
Editor & Publisher, ContentNext Media (paidContent.org, MocoNews.net and ContentSutra)
Regrads

45 Comments

Rishi Khanna

I definitely prefer the old site over the new design.

The Cons:
The new design feels too busy and is distracting for me. The current headlines listing next to the channels listing especially.

The stories definitely don't run long enough above the fold. The width of the primary column is too narrow.

Showing "Channels" that are empty is also frustrating.

The Pros:
The colors and contrast are an improvement over the previously excessive white.

Very readable font.

David

The site certainly looks attractive, but ditto what Daniel and Saul wrote – please expand the number of stories on the homepage when you have a chance. I find that on similar sites, I tend to miss important stories when they are buried under "channels" that I wouldn't ordinarily be inclined to view.

I think that the channel concept can be useful, especially if I need to return to the site to locate an older post for example, but only if the homepage lists your most recent stories as it did before (since I am interested in reading nearly every post on the site).

Dorian Benkoil

Thanks, Steven, and Rafat. And, Rafat, "name brand" was shorthand. But your point is well taken. I'd use anything that worked well.

Steven Birch

dorian,

Very busy sites like http://gov.ca.gov/, http://www.ilounge.com/, http://www.ou.org/, http://www.sacunion.com/ and many thousands of other sites are powered by ExpressionEngine. The difference is that a lot of sites are using it as a tool and don't feel they have to tell the world what their site is powered by. Some places are likely in the position of corporate or other policies to not broadcast/publically endorse what software they are using. It's not like any major web site shares what software powers the backend of their sites, so how would you know what is powering it? Blogging tools and CMS's are two different beasts, and frankly wordpress is a toy.

I have heard of ExpressionEngine and glad to see the move to it, and the new site design, and congrats!

Saul Hansell

Rafat–

The site looks good. But I find it less useful than your old site. The good news is the variables are probably ones you can tweak easily. I think the stories don't run long enough before the jump and there aren't enough stories on the front page. You also may want to combine your two right hand columns to make a wider main news column.

All these thoughts are about what I liked best about your site: It was a single page where I could get a quick view of everything going on in digital media. Now I need to make dozens of clicks to get the same information I could get with one click. That's not an improvement.

Just one eager reader's view.

Saul

Rafat Ali

dorian
since when did it become about using name brands? pmachine, the parent company of expression engine, is well known among the people it needs to be..it is a more publishing/oriented engine, than say wordpress, which is a basic blogging tool

Rafat Ali

daniel
we are working on bringing out that scanning ability back…we will increase the number of entries. also, the top headlines are right up there in the middle column.
also i am not settled about the main column width (which i want to be wider) but there's a debate on what to go with, in interest of being accessible on all kinds of monitor resolutions…
ra

Dorian Benkoil

Fascinated by the move to Expression Engine. Frankly, have never used it and only vaguely heard of it. Why the switch from the two other "name brand" guys? Is it really that much more scaleable, manipulable, etc?

Oh, and congrats!

Daniel Powell

A major part of the charm — and ease-of-use — of the previous site was the super-easy scanning ability, where even if you didn't visit for days at a time it was oh-so-easy to scroll down and see everything within a minute or two.

Now it just stops after 4 or 5 entries.

I'm not sure the rationale behind this change, but it's risky. Those of us interested in one of the niches you cover will now have difficulty finding the content we're interested in……..and eventually may just drifty away…….

Rafat Ali

thanks everyone..still lots of bugs popping up…and we are working on it…hopefully things will be smoother by next week.
thanks for the kind words…
ra

John Blossom President, Shore

Great redesign, congratulations. Your comments on CMS are to the point: the weblog revolution is not powered by the greatest software in the world. And yet it's gotten us where we are today…

Jay MacDonald

Congrats Rafat & team. The newly redeisgned site is clean and easy to navigate. Now, the same terrific content is more organized & accessible. Also, congrats on a great Mixer in London last week. 450Plus people…awesome! See you at the next Mixer. Best-jay

Paul Short

I saw the new design when it went live for a short period of time last week and thought it was superb. Very nicely done.

Leslie

Hi Rafat & Co.,

congrats on the relaunch and the new, outstanding design! Its been great working with Greg and the Airbag team to get things going for you.

And Bill, it may not be rocket science, but there are days when it feels pretty close. I've got 10+ years in this industry and I can attest that Greg and his team handled every unexpected hiccup with poise, wisdom, and grace. Great job guys.

We wish PaidContent & Airbag much continued success.

The pMachine Team

Gregory Smith

Rafat,
The previous design of the your site was satisfactory, but this is really, really an improvement. Definitely Major League now! Very impressive. Congratulations.
Continued success.

ploy

I am a student and have been reading your content for awhile. Love your content and new design. Keep up the good work!

Rafat

Bill
You're jumping to conclusions based on no knowledge of the situation, sad to say.

Bill

"Some credits are in order: first, the excellent design and development team at Airbag Industries and the allied team."

Well, a development team that can't get a site to work before launching it (three days last weekend) and still is working bugs out in a "live" not "production" environment, doesn't exactly have to worry about being "snatched" away. With that level of development (the Internet has been around for more than a few days, I believe), they may want to go work for Microsoft where their lack of basic skills (development) will be welcomed. If they worked at Google, they'd be gone (imagine if Google didn't work for three days). Mostly through, PaidContent's lack of Internet skills is pretty darn embarrassing considering it's their only distribution vehicle. This isn't rocket science.

Rafat

Hey Santosh
Thanks on your thoughts..yes, we will change it on ContentSutra..thanks for pointing out.

Santosh

Hi Rafat & Team,
Congratulations, the site looks pretty organized now. Being on software side, I can echo your comments about blog CMS/general CMS. Though in Java world content repository specifications are evolving to make solutions vendor interoperable but I don't know if such spec exists solutions with other language. Having said that, I see no reason why blogging software should not aim to have a common spec for "managing content repository" vendor neutral way!!

All the best, btw in new website top header having paidContent.org family menu, it says "published in Santa Monica….", shouldn't be it "Published in New Delhi…" for ContentSutra? :)

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