John’s Tips Tricks and Thoughts—March-April

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I got so absorbed in writing the recent Adventure 40 and autopilot articles, as well as winding up the two-winter refit on our new-to-us J/109—tell-all coming soon—that I completely forgot the March heads-up about new Tips Tricks and Thoughts posts.

Anyway, over the past two months I have written 25 entries (so far) covering a wide range of subjects from tool tips to short opinion pieces, on to sharing interesting stuff that members send to us or bring up in the comments.

Talking of missing last month’s heads-up article, I’m still wrestling with the best way to keep you members informed about happenings in the TT&T area, without flooding you with emails.

These monthly posts kinda work, but having to do them manually seems inelegant. And I’m uncomfortable with cluttering up the New Article area with them.

One idea we had was to reduce the number of articles on the New page from ten to five (with a Next button to navigate to further articles) and then display the newest Tips under that, so everything new would be in once place. But you would have to remember to scroll down below the new articles to find the new tips.

We also added a “Tips” button to the main menu. But that feels kind of inconsistent since there is no “Articles” button…but there is a “Topics” button…which is where all the articles hang out…but not the Tips.

I know this sounds trivial, but it’s not. Making the main menu instantly understandable is vital to continued site success.

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

All that said, you members can get a weekly digest email simply by checking that option on the Email Preferences tab on your Account page, but less than 10% of you have done so, which might call into question the whole TT&T area…except that our site statistics show that it’s now one of the most popular pages.

So maybe it’s that:

  • We have not made that TT&T digest option obvious enough?
  • The thought of a weekly email sucks?

What say you on that?

Anyway, in case it’s the former, not the later, you can click on the “Members: Turn on Digest” button below, or any time on the Tips page.

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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 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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Carolyn Rosner

Website and user-interface designer here, and a new member as well. It might be that there are actually too many categories at this point. What if you rolled TT&T into Articles? They are all Articles, basically, it’s just that Articles are longer, Tips et al. are shorter. That seems to be the only difference to me. You could still do a digest of them.

Consider that the distinction between Articles and Tips may be more internal to your workflows at AAC Worldwide, but in reality may not matter that much to most site visitors. I encounter this a lot when building websites — the client’s subtle differences between content types are really theirs alone, and they are used to them, so they seem immutable. But to the rest of the world, meh — can they easily find stuff or not?

My $.02.

Other random thoughts: Love the short line length, good color contrast, and larger type, it’s very friendly on mobile and desktop too. And there’s always something interesting to read!

Matt Marsh

I’d agree with that. I don’t see much need to distinguish between long- and short-form articles, from a presentation standpoint. The sites that are widely regarded as being “best in the business”, eg. Ars Technica, all have the latest content (of all types) on the first page. Then you can click once more to go back in time (still showing all types) or to show only a particular category of content.
Keeping more new content on the first page is also good for SEO.

Arne Mogstad

Hi. I’m in no way skilled at design, but I like that there’s a “tips” button at the top. I also would like to have the tips show up in the “new” page, and I would like them to just come on top of the previous article (as if it was just a new article). Maybe with a different background colour to make it easier to separate tips and articles (the way you do with important pieces in the articles). And as a logged in member, I don’t need the “about” button anymore on top. So maybe a different header for logged in members, or the option for us to edit it oneself?

Anyway, I am generally very happy as it is, but I would like to not have to look two different places for new stuff. It’s enough “work” to have to scroll down to find the “recent comments” button that’s hidden at the very bottom.

And as to not so many subscribing to the weekly tips-summary-email, I think it is frequent enough that just looking there when reading other things anyway is good enough. There is usually a new tips anyway. Which is really nice!

I also like that the tips are in full so you don’t have to open them to read it like you have to with the articles! The only thing I miss, is the comments-counter to be on the end of the tips as well, since I will go in there if there’s comments to read, but now I have to scroll up and down a lot.

This is all minor stuff, but just mentioning the small things that I notice, and I use your site a lot! Generally I love it! The content is great, but the usability I feel has increased a lot over the couple years I’ve been a member.


Kevin Williams

For what it is worth, I too like the idea of “tips” simply being listed as a new item to be viewed upon login as with any other article. To be quite honest, the only time I ever even know there is a new tip posted is when I read recent comments and see the reference to it. This reference then causes me to go searching through the tips button and I must admit there have been many good things listed that I would otherwise have completely missed. If tips are free to all viewers, then having them intermixed with more in depth members only articles (oinger read time) may even help to draw new members.

Ben Logsdon

FWIW, my usual portal to all your new content is through the email link. I typically follow a few links from those articles. Always a good day when a new article pops into my inbox!

P D Squire

I wonder if perhaps the Tips could co-exist in the Topics area.

Many of the tips seem to be additional information to an existing article. I wondered if it might be possible to publish the tips as article-updates. For example the “get vane gear out of water before deploying JSD” tip could perhaps be an update in the “JSD Attachments & Launch System” chapter.

If this approach proved practical, the “New” section could then show “New Articles” and “Updated Articles”. The “Updated” list entries would link directly to the update within each article.

On the rare occasion that a Tip might not have a related existing article it could become the embryo of a new article.

Embedding each tip into an existing article might add editorial burden as you strive for a smooth-reading article post-update. In that case the related Tips could perhaps be treated as a special category of “Comments.”

Carolyn Rosner

Chiming in again … Everyone has had such interesting comments about how they find and use the stories on this site! John’s note about the “value proposition” of the site being the goal is especially important …

… which makes me think about reconsidering the subscription model: instead of having certain content types be free and others paywalled, what about a monthly limit of X numbers of posts per month (3-5?) before one has to subscribe? That way people can test drive the entire site before making a decision to pay for full access.

I don’t know what kind of analytics you have on who reads what, but this might be something to consider.

Guess I’m up to $.04 now. –Carolyn

Carolyn Rosner

Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this — you have a very sophisticated site here! (and, um, I didn’t know about the clear-cookie trick …) So thanks for that too!

Stephen Nosal

Hmm – lots of good ideas here. I get the weekly digest and love it – easy to skim wherever I am. And the way I use it, I like the tips button because I will remember a tip I read on the train or somewhere and want to go back – easy to scroll through all the tips.

I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to a new page either, but agree with the subscription challenge – if a visitor only sees short tips, they won’t understand the value up front and leave without subscribing.

Paul Clayton

Duh! I thought every new item was posted under “New”. I was sitting there wondering “25 new items in the last two months? I only see like 7 or 8.” So I clicked on the “Tips” button and found all this great stuff that I had been missing. So yes, if all the new content showed up in the “New” tab first, it would help me and potentially a couple of other village idiots to get the most from this wonderful site.