You have no doubt noticed that things look a little different. As I mentioned yesterday, this has been an ongoing project. In fact, I’ve spent over a year evaluating new designs for the website, testing out functions and features, even trying new software platforms…all in the hope that I could build upon our core strengths and lay the groundwork for a stronger and more effective 1P5 community.
The site redesign was the first phase of that project. After exhaustively searching through every theme repository and design concept I could find, I finally settled on this one. I’ve already beta tested it with some people, and the reaction from most has been overhwelmingly positive. That said, this is an iteration, not a finished product. The goal is to find a look and feel that gets out of the way of the content and lets us tell you the stories we’re known for as effectively as possible.
I’ll point out a few highlights:
- Everything is bigger. This is, of course, the first thing that strikes you. Big images. Big text. Clear readability even if you’re sitting back in your chair. Making things bigger has become the goal of much of modern design. We spend our lives staring at too much information, small text and busy layouts on increasingly smaller screens. For our eyes and our concentration, bigger is better.
- Everything is simpler. If I had one complaint about our old design (which I quite liked until I began to see its flaws) it was that it was too busy. There was so much going on every time you landed on the homepage. An auto-rotating slider, category sections, a sidebar with links and ads and additional signup forms and more information…it was a visual riot. A nicely packaged one, but still too much. In this version of the site design, we’ve stripped away everything superfluous. The sidebar is now hidden (you can still see what remains of it by clicking the “sidebar” menu button on the top left of the screen). The category dividers have been tucked neatly into menus at the top and bottom of the screen, and tabbed for easy sorting. There are no more ads on the screen (more on that in a minute), no more news links, no more featured videos. Too much of the content on our homescreen never got an update, or only rarely. It began to be a chore to keep up with it. The new 1P5 has all the content you want front and center, with the newest items at the top. You can keep hitting “load more” until you reach the end of the archives. It’s all right here.
- No more sidebar or homepage ads. We’ve depended on ad revenue for part of our income from day one. But we’ve also seen lackluster performance for some of our more recent ads as people have simply lost interest, have blocked them with browser extensions, or become blind to them. When an ad is seen 10,000 times and only gets 10 clicks, it’s time to think of new ways to help our sponsors. We plan to do exactly that. We’re still investigating the best ways, whether that’s inline ads (built into the text of the articles themselves) or sponsored stories, we’ll figure it out. And we’ll always do our best to be transparent with you. We take the time to try to get to know the companies we allow to advertise here. We want them to be the kind of businesses you can trust. When we get complaints (it’s rare, but it does happen) about a sponsor, we investigate. If we can’t resolve it, we pull the ad. We want to help Catholic businesses and business owners to thrive, and we want to provide our readers access to products and services they can feel good about spending their hard-earned money with.
- A vastly improved mobile experience. I’ve mentioned it more than once recently, but more than half of our readers are now visiting on mobile devices. The old site was readable on a phone or tablet, but it was a bit clunky. The ads got in the way. Things just weren’t laid out in a logical fashion. This design is optimized for mobile, both in terms of layout and the way the designers programmed it. It looks beautiful even on a phone — the text is readable, the images are clear, and there are no speedbumps in the reading experience — and that’s how it should be.
I’m happy with the way this looks, but there will be bugs — for example, Disqus isn’t playing nicely with the new theme, and the comment box is stretching to the corners of the screen. We’re working to get this resolved. Other things will no doubt have to be tweaked. I have some more ideas for features and design changes that will, I think, fit naturally into the new look and feel. Again: the goal is to get everything that isn’t necessary out of the way so we can focus on what we do best: providing the highest-quality Catholic content possible to our audience. And we want consuming that content — whether its text, images, video, or audio — to be a pleasant experience for you, too.
I won’t waste any more of your time talking about the medium. It’s time to get back to the message.