New AAC Web Site Design

new site

Welcome to our new web site design. It is now a little over three years since we made the switch to WordPress, and that first WordPress design has served us well.

But as good as that design turned out to be, it is time to do better. Here are our goals for this new design:

A Cleaner Look

Like offshore sailboats, simpler is almost always better in web design. So we have analyzed what parts of the site you, our readers, use most and made those easier to find and more prominent.

We have also worked a lot on readability, particularly for those of us with aging eyes, by making the fonts a bit bigger and being more generous with white space.

Since AAC is read on everything from smart phones to large screen monitors, design is always a compromise. Our focus has been on readability on screens from iPad up.

We did consider the use of so called “responsive web design” in which the page size and aspect ratio vary dependent on the viewing device. However, we rejected this latest trend in favour of a fixed width design because it is still the best way, at least with our web design skills, to obey the classic rules of readable typography.

In the future we will look at serving special pages for smart phone readers, but it is not a big priority since the article column is already very readable on a smart phone and less than 3% of our readers use screens smaller than an iPad mini.

Easier to Navigate

Over half of our page loads come from our archives, so we have made navigating them easier:

  • Posts are now listed from newest to oldest, rather than the other way around, because we think you are going to be more interested in our newer content.
  • The search box, which you don’t use often, has been moved to give more room for the topic menus, which you do. We did consider changing to drop down menus, but in the end decided to stick with the flat structure with drill down, since it works well to access the over 600 posts and six hundred thousand words (that’s not a misprint) in our archives. The flat menus are also the best way to immediately show a new reader that AAC is a huge reference book, not just a blog.
  • When you drill down into the subcategories in the archives, you will now find a “bread crumb” menu, so you can easily see where you are, and how you got there.
  • Posts that are part of a series now show that in the header and have links to navigate through the series without having to return to the index. This is a work in progress and we will be improving the series posts and editing them into a more cohesive whole (rather like a library of eBooks) over time.
  • Posts that are part of a series list from oldest to newest when viewed on the series index page, but from newest to oldest when viewed as part of a larger category—the best of both worlds.

Advertising

The new design includes advertising for gear from other companies and our books.

Rest assured that the addition of advertising will not change our practice of calling ’em as we see ’em, without fear or favour, and that we will always disclose any potential conflict of interest.

While on the subject, I want to sincerely thank our charter advertisers. And so should you, since without them this web site would have ceased to exist. Please use the links to buy their products, they deserve it, and we need their success to survive. It really is that simple.

To those of you who made suggestions for revenue generation last summer in the comments to this post, again thank you. Many of you may wonder why, with so many other innovative suggestions on the table, we chose advertising.

The reason is that only advertising, and one other idea suggested in those comments, met what we came to realize was a fundamental requirement: Since Phyllis and I are already spending as much time on AAC as we are comfortable with, any revenue generation scheme could not involve appreciably more work for us because that would just result in us spending less time creating content for this site.

We have two more revenue generation ideas that we will roll out this year and we are confident that they, along with advertising, will form a three pronged strategy that will keep AAC sustainable.

Donations

You may be wondering what happened to the donations buttons? The answer is that, after an initial flurry, the flow slowed to a trickle that only covered about 10% of our annual out of pocket costs—clearly not a long term answer.

Having said that, a big thank you to all of you who did donate. Your generosity helped spur us to keep working at ways to keep AAC alive, growing, and ever improving.

Please Test and Report

We have tested this new design pretty thoroughly, but I’m going to bet that we have missed things that are hard to use, ugly, difficult to understand, or downright broken. If you find any problems, or even if you don’t,  please tell us what you think about the new design, good, bad, or indifferent, by leaving a comment.

Thanks.

Enjoy

And above all, enjoy the new site.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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23 comments … add one
  • Michael Feb 1, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Your new template is not loading, still seeing the old one…and your header image is (logo) is broken. 🙁

    • John Feb 1, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Hi Michael,

      Once again, thanks for the heads up. Found the problem on our server and it’s now solved.

  • Matt Marsh Feb 1, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Very nice work, John. No problems noted so far.

    And THANK YOU for having the ads hosted as static content from your own domain. That is the proper way to do it, especially in light of Cisco’s recent report howing that ad-sharing networks are riddled with orders of magnitude more malware than porn and piracy sites are. No nasty scripts, no XSS, just a “hey you might be interested in this” is the right way to do ads.

  • Justin C Feb 1, 2013, 7:28 pm

    We did consider the use of so called “responsive web design” in which the page size and aspect ratio vary dependent on the viewing device. However, we rejected this latest trend in favour of a fixed width design because it is still the best way, at least with our web design skills, to obey the classic rules of readable typography.

    As a reader I really appreciate this. I have my browser maximised, and some (stoopid) sites insist on flowing text the whole width of the screen, it’s such hard work to read. I’m glad you guys, even with everything else you have on your plate, are smart enough to know about text readability and to implement a site design that does not hurt to read… but I don’t notice any difference, I’ve refreshed my page, are the changes minor? What I see is the same as the image at the top of the post.

    • John Feb 1, 2013, 7:35 pm

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for the kind comments on our type decisions, you always wonder when you go against the “next big thing”.

      Yes, I guess the changes are minor—although it the re-write did not feel that way! I think you will find the archives MUCH easier to use and get around, which was the key goal.

  • Dave Benjamin Feb 1, 2013, 8:32 pm

    John,

    Looks really good. Congrats on the new look.

  • Jim Feb 2, 2013, 9:23 am

    Relatively new to your site; but very much enjoy the practical and objective info. FYI, I do read on my Android phone 70% of time. Seems to be working OK. But, cannot now find search box location. Where is it moved? Thanks for your nice site.

    • John Feb 2, 2013, 10:15 am

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for the information on Android phones, great to hear the site is indeed readable.

      The search box is now at the top of the two right side columns under the ad for our Arctic Book. Neither will not show if you have Java Script disabled on your viewing device.

  • Patrick Feb 2, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Hi John,
    Amazed at how you do it, nevertheless grateful at all the time and info you put into this site. For amteurs such as myself, its a Godsend of information and truly appreciate you and your readers for the wealth of information.

  • Gene Gruender Feb 2, 2013, 12:43 pm

    I read the majority of your site on my I-phone and it works quite well, unlike most sites. Good job!

  • Doug Feb 2, 2013, 1:33 pm

    Dougie Likes It!

  • Tomas Allis Feb 3, 2013, 8:18 pm

    Please don’t do the horrid mobile page thing.
    I always have to outwit the browsers on the ipad so i can see a proper webpage instead of the awful mobile mush on autoswitching websites.
    If you must, could you just make a “mobile” button for those who really like it and keep a normal default page?

    • John Feb 4, 2013, 10:10 am

      Hi Tomas,

      I have always wondered how useful mobile pages were. Having input from someone who uses a phone extensively for reading in really useful, thank you.

  • Lou Feb 4, 2013, 10:06 am

    Well done to you both – the new site is really clean and clear, and all credit to you that it ‘appears’ to look the same as before. This hides the amount of work that has gone into the redesign, but it retains your (and I hate to use the word, but you know what I mean) brand. Good work!

  • Bill Balme Feb 4, 2013, 11:06 am

    Looks good.

    I do find now that when reading an article I have to re-size my screen to narrow down the page width. Don’t remember having to do that before as I think you had stuff on the side that effectively narrowed down the text. Too wide makes it difficult (for me) to jump to the next line…

    You say you moved the search box – did you? or did you eliminate it? I can’t find it and was hoping to use it! 🙂

    Bill

    • John Feb 4, 2013, 11:56 am

      Hi Bill,

      The columns are only slightly wider, and the type is bigger, which should compensate. What device and browser are you using?

      The search box is at the top of the two right columns, just under our ad for the Arctic book. Please confirm that you can see it, otherwise we may have a bug? Also, you won’t see the search box if you have java script disabled in your browser.

  • Bill Balme Feb 4, 2013, 12:23 pm

    Not sure what’s going on – can’t see the search box – or the ad for your book! I don’t have any columns in the display – it’s just one -very- big one…

    It appears that I’m running java, but just in case I downloaded java again and still nothing. I suspect it’s me with the bug – not you!

    Comments used to remember my name and email – not doing that anymore – perhaps it’s all to do with cookies???? (Can you tell I don’t know much about computers…)

    Running on a laptop with XP, Internet Explorer 8.

    • John Feb 4, 2013, 12:46 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Sounds to me like you have IE set to some kind of high privacy mode that would stop Java running and stop cookies, which is how remembering your name happens). Go to the cog wheel on the top right corner, then to internet settings, click on privacy and set the slider bar to medium.

      Or, better still, change to Google Crome. IE8 is the the home of browser bugs, only Microsoft could, or would, get away with it.

      Please advise if that fixes it.

      • Bill Balme Feb 4, 2013, 1:11 pm

        Well lookee there! Switched back to Google Chrome and there’s my old familiar AAC!

        Looking good John!

  • Paul Mills Feb 5, 2013, 6:47 am

    Hi John,

    Like the new look and changes, nice and fresh.

    I understand why you have chosen Ads and am cool with it, and the recognition that the site has to be sustainable (maybe there is an article in ‘sustainable adventure cruising’ 🙂

    I guess that in reality I won’t be clicking on the adverts much, but want to continue financialy contributing, and have a recurring diary note to make my ‘annual subscription’…. only thing is how do I now do this?

    One final question, is there any chance of spell check facility for the comments section; my spelling and typing is a bit eratic. I know I can copy and paste from word, it’s just a bit of a bind!

    Thanks

    Paul

    • John Feb 5, 2013, 5:05 pm

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks very much for bringing up the contribution issue. A method will be back in the next few months. We are coming up with a membership system with some concrete benefits associated with each level. This makes us more comfortable than donations, where those, like you, who were incredibly generous, received no more that those who gave nothing at all.

      On spell check. I don’t know of any way to do it within WordPress, but there is a better way: Change your browser to Google Chrome or Firefox, both have built in real time spelling checkers. They also work properly, unlike Internet Explorer. Faster too. My personal favorite is Chrome, but I used to use firefox and liked it too.

  • paul Mills May 23, 2013, 1:13 pm

    Hi John,

    Just spotted ‘AAC Book club’ section …. did I miss something, please could you give some brief info …. does it replace the donations button?

    Paul

    • John May 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

      Hi Paul,

      Post on the way, should be an hour or so. Mad scramble to get it all installed and the bugs squashed!

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