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.
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.
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.
And above all, enjoy the new site.