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.
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?
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!
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.
Hi Carolyn (and Matt),
Interesting idea, and you have definitely got me thinking, thank you.
That said, there is one big difference between this site and others and that is we are membership funded, so every design decision must have the primary goal of making clear what the value proposition for joining is.
So when we look at the design through that lens, mixing in say 15 tips with say four full on articles (in a month) becomes problematic because a new reader may see a few short tips of little value to pay for, and completely miss the four in depth and actionable articles that are worth paying for because they can be had for less than a dollar each on an annual basis.
The other big part of the value proposition, and difference between the two types of content, is that articles are curated into books and topics providing a long term organized reference to members, but tips have short lives, are currently free, and are not curated.
Point being that membership site design is a whole ‘nuther thing.
That said, your points do make me more interested in creating a new “New” page that comprises both tips and articles, but with a very clear separation and still giving clear primacy to articles. Any thoughts on how best to do that? Right now I’m leaning toward the design I sugested in the article above.
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.
Thanks for thoughts. Seems like people are generally for a combined new area. I’m thinking about how to do that. Also good point on the location of the comments link. I think I can move that. Also, an interesting idea on removing the about button for logged in members.
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.
Thanks for the thoughts. I’m now thinking that the tips definitely need to go on the new page, but I’s still not keen on mixing them up with articles. Anyway, I will play around with options, although it maybe next winter before I get this sorted.
On Arne’s suggestion, I have just moved the links to comments and tip categories to the bottom of Tips. Let me know how you like it.
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!
Thanks for the kind words. And yes, you are in the majority of members that visit most of the time from the notification emails, so I definitely need to keep that in mind.
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.”
We are actually planning something very like that with each Online Book having a tips chapter for the relevant tips. I just need to do a bit of coding to make that happen totally automatically. I plan to get to it next winter.
And I’m also already updating articles with a link to a relevant tip where appropriate. And said updated articles are under the recently updated topic: https://www.morganscloud.com/category/recently-updated/
And further, there is a link in the monthly digest emails to the recently updated topic, which I think is a better solution than cluttering up the new area with long articles that only have very small changes.
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
That’s a model we have looked at several times over the years, but we have done a huge amount of measurement and A/B testing and so far the current model of offering 10 specific sample chapters of our choosing in exchange for an email address, seems to yield the best conversion percentages.
The model you are suggesting works well for news sites, I think, but for us where a lot of the reason for joining is access to specific information in the archives many people will, with that model, use the free offer to read the specific articles they found with a Google search and then leave without joining. The other problem with that model is that as most people know, all a reader needs to do to get another five free articles is clear their cookies.
And finally, the big advantage of our current model is that we get the persons’ eMail and so can go on sending them information about new content until they see something that is worth it to them to join for. Also later in the funnel, once they have had a chance to explore, we offer them a trial membership.
We have also split tested trial membership up front, but interestingly, and counterintuitively, (I was surprised) the current sales funnel beats trial membership hands down on all factors.
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!
No problem, it’s good to have these things questioned and then have to explain our thinking to be sure we are not just locked into one way of doing things. If you see anything else that can be improved, I’m all ears. This discussion has got me thinking about a set of changes that I think will make the menu much more intuitive, although it will probably be next winter before I do them, since they are quite extensive.
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.
Good to hear it works for you, although I would like to get rid of the “Tips” button on the main menu in time. I think I have a way to do that and still make tips easy to find, although that will probably need to wait for the winter.
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.