Some of you may have noticed that posting has been light since Thursday of last week. I wanted to fill you in on the reason why.
I’ve been working on finding the right look and feel to keep 1P5 as readable and accessible as possible, and I’ve been heavily invested in the technical aspects of getting that done over the weekend. We’ve gotten countless compliments on our visual appeal over the past two years – a light and bright design with lots of clear and attractive images that makes the site enjoyable to look at…which is kind of important when you’re spending time reading something.
But I’ve also had complaints about readability, particularly from some of our readers with impaired vision. The design originally had text in shades of gray, which were hard for some people to make out. We’ve darkened them, but the links are still hard to see, and in general the text is somewhat smaller than the emerging standard for readability.
I also think the site has become far too busy, especially on the homepage. Between the sidebar with its various ads and info boxes, and the section breakdowns on the front page along with the auto-scrolling slider, there’s a lot going on when you hit our homepage. Some of the sections – like the featured videos, Catholic Voices, and the links to other news articles and blogs, just aren’t getting updated as regularly as I had originally envisioned. This leaves us with a lot of essentially dead space – clutter that becomes superfluous to the reader in finding what he wants. It’s also difficult for many people to find archived content, and with well over a thousand articles here, that’s simply unacceptable.
In other words: our best and most shared content is getting lost in everything else that’s going on. I’m going to put it right back where it belongs, front and center, and I’m going to remove anything that distracts from that.
I’m working on a design that is clean and readable: larger, darker fonts, less visual distraction, and better responsive design — that’s the term web geeks use for “does it look good it on a phone or tablet?” I was looking at our September stats, and out of a pool of about 200,000 user sessions (visits to the website from a specific computer during a distinct period of time) over half of those visitors were viewing us on mobile devices. The way people are reading things is just different in 2016. We’re spending more and more time staring at smaller screens in the palms of our hands than parked at a desk looking at monitors. I want the best possible experience for those readers without compromising our more traditional desktop viewing audience, so I have that balance in the forefront of my mind.
The fact is, as the only staff member here at 1P5, I can spend time on content, or on administrative tasks. For the present moment, I’m diverting resources to the latter, or this project is never going to get done. (I started it last year and had to table it; I came back to it this year and wanted it finished in August…we can all see how well that worked out.) I’ve also decided to be a bit more realistic, instead of my usual perfectionist self. There are a number of updates to the functionality of the site I want to roll out, and while if we were a big-budget publication we’d have a team working on doing that all at once, we’re not and we don’t have that. So I’m going to launch 1P5 2.0 as a “big next step” iteration to address the most pressing issues, and then I’ll roll out additional changes as I have time to add them. I was allowing myself to procrastinate because I was trying to do too much and never getting to it. That’s not working for me anymore. So please, expect some further tweaks even after the changes are made.
Bottom line: we’re DIY around here. That’s just how it has to be. Sometimes you have to choose between remodeling the kitchen and the bathroom.
I want to thank you for your patience. The changes are not quite done, but they’re close. We’re not ignoring you, we’re just trying to tidy up the place a bit.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
I must say, Steve, that one of the things I most admire about this site, at least in terms of visual presentation, is that it is one of the few left out there that have not capitulated to the bizarre ultra-large font movement that has swept the internet. There are some websites whose fonts are so inordinately large that nary more than the headline itself fits onto the screen (be it desktop or phone) at any given time. I often find myself having to tinker with my browser resolution settings to shrink such websites so I can see more than a handful of lines of text at a time, or have to scroll just to finish one sentence.
It sounds like you have a lot of exciting things in store with this update. I just hope this site won’t become just another built as if for a nursing home. Kind of like these phones: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ce8e501aff0f4ee92e2cbd137cea2038fce2a342e8de1cd5fe64f500c2b8f741.jpg
There are interesting reasons for the trend. I found this article surprisingly informative:
But like I said, it’s about striking a balance. I’ve worked with UX professionals in my pre-publishing career, and they were always banging this drum. I’ve always struggled to recognize the problem, because I have unusually acute vision.
But now that I’ve been staring at the Internet for 23 years, I have to admit that sometimes it’s nice to be able to sit back in my chair and read something rather than hunching forward, peering close.
I hope to find the sweet spot without taking away from the substance of the content.
That link may or may not work. I grabbed it from my pocket folder. Here’s the original:
Looking forward to seeing the updates!
Thank you for taking the time to update us all. I can understand the issues and the reasons why some have a difficult time reading/finding content, but I appreciate the clean appearance of 1P5. What ever you want to do and in what ever time frame that is best for you, I’ll just keep checking back everyday as I do already. Thanks for the hard work you do.
A possibly complex enhancement request: it’s not straightforward to find reverse chronological (newest first) links to posts. For a regular / daily reader, the first thing checked is what’s new.
That should actually be standard in the next version.
The current design is wonderful. I suspect that whatever you come up with to address the issues you identify as requiring enhancement will also be wonderful.
You are gifted, and we are grateful recipients.
Thanks for the hard work.
Steve, I am absolutely going to read articles that are well written. Period. That’s one reason I continue returning to 1P5. The other is content – cutting edge, up to the moment and verified throughout with links. And if I haven’t followed a story, the links can fill me in.
Faithful Catholics could do worse.
You are allowed to spend time on development, dear man. We are standing by.
Looking good so far.